Tobacco prevention budget shrinks
Hawaii is losing ground to tobacco advertising, dropping to 14th in the country from seventh in the past fiscal year in tobacco prevention spending, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reports.
The state is expected to collect $116.9 million in tobacco revenues this year, yet it will spend only 5 percent on prevention programs, a drop from last year's 7.7 percent, according to the campaign.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that Hawaii spend at least $10.78 million a year on tobacco prevention, 46.2 percent more than will be spent this year, the campaign said.
"We are falling behind," Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii, said in a news release on the campaign report.
"It has been proven that money spent on prevention works," she said. "The statistics show that in states where more money is allocated to tobacco prevention programs, there is a significant decrease in teenage tobacco use."
Maine, top-ranking state for the fourth year in tobacco prevention, reduced smoking by 64 percent among middle school students and 59 percent among high school students from 1997 to 2005, she said.
For every $1 spent on tobacco prevention programs in Hawaii, tobacco companies are expected to spend at least $8.30 to promote tobacco products, based on 2003 figures, the coalition said.
This means tobacco advertising in Hawaii will total more than $48 million, largely aimed at the young and the poor, compared with $5.8 million spent by the state on prevention, the organization said.
"Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in Hawaii and costs residents more than half a billion dollars annually in medical care and lost productivity," said Don Weisman, American Heart Association spokesman in Hawaii.
"The state's current investment in tobacco prevention and control programs pales in relation to the costs associated with tobacco use," he said.
Hawaii is expected to spend more than $300 million on tobacco-related health-care costs this year, according to the coalition.
Weisman said Hawaii should at least invest the minimum amount recommended by the CDC for tobacco prevention.
"The return on that investment will be many times its value, both in dollars and in the impact on families that must deal with the loss of or disability of key members due to tobacco use," he said.
"Using tobacco settlement dollars to control and prevent future tobacco use is the right thing to do."