Isles lag on funding
to battle tobacco

A coalition says Hawaii is falling
short of a minimum recommendation

Hawaii is among the top states in the nation in anti-tobacco funding, but the state is still not meeting the minimum levels recommended by federal health officials, a coalition of public health groups said yesterday.

Hawaii ranks seventh in funding programs to prevent smoking by spending $8.9 million, which amounts to 82.6 percent of the minimum amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association.

The CDC recommends Hawaii spend between $10.8 million and $23.5 million.

"Hawaii is making important progress in protecting its kids from tobacco, but its ultimate success depends on whether it continues to properly fund and implement its tobacco prevention program," said William Corr, the group's executive director. "Hawaii cannot afford to let up on its tobacco prevention efforts, because the tobacco companies are spending record amounts to market their deadly and addictive products, often in ways that appeal to kids."

Julian Lipscher, the state Health Department's coordinator for the tobacco prevention and education program, said Hawaii is continuing to build an "effective, comprehensive, statewide tobacco-control program."

"The indicators we have so far tell us we're headed in the right direction and we're doing a pretty decent job," he said.

Lipscher said the state has among the lowest rates of smokers in the nation. Hawaii also has no-smoking ordinances in every county, a high cigarette excise tax and a low rate of tobacco sales to minors.

But the war is not over, as tobacco companies continue to pour billions of dollars in marketing and advertising, he said.

"Certainly, we're not ready to declare victory and go home," Lipscher said. "There's a lot that needs to be done."

Only three states -- Maine, Delaware and Mississippi -- are spending money on anti-smoking efforts at the minimum levels recommended by the CDC.

Altogether, the states have set aside $538 million for smoking prevention for fiscal 2005, which began in October and runs through September. That is just a third of the $1.6 billion minimum the CDC says should be spent nationwide, says the report.

The CDC's minimum funding recommendations for each state are based on population and other factors.

The report also found Hawaii spent just 7.7 percent of the $115.2 million it will collect this year from the state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes.

The settlements were meant to help the states recoup the cost of treating sick smokers, and the states pledged to fund tobacco prevention programs.

Tobacco use kills about 1,000 Hawaii residents per year, or about 16 percent of all deaths in the state, and costs the state $263 million in health care bills, the report said.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids


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