Money at the Root of Nation's Tobacco Problem

(January 16, 2013)

The American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control 2013 ReportThe tobacco industry continues to spend billions to keep people addicted to its deadly products, while public health is shortchanged. The American Lung Association annual "State of Tobacco Control" report reveals a tragic money trail leading to tobacco-caused death and disease that shows federal and state governments are largely failing to combat tobacco industry tactics, while diverting or misusing life-saving tobacco control funds.

"State of Tobacco Control 2013" helps you follow the trail of money misused by policymakers and strategically invested by Big Tobacco to discover how the leading cause of preventable death is often entangled in a financial web of neglect and deceit. The report tracks annual progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning letter-grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.

"We are faced with a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry that's determined to maintain its market share at the expense of our kids and current smokers," said Paul G. Billings, American Lung Association Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Education. "State and federal policymakers must battle a changing Big Tobacco and step up to fund programs and enact policies proven to reduce tobacco use."

The federal government's progress on tobacco control over the past several years nearly ground to a halt in 2012, earning it the worst report card in years, three Ds and an F. Most notably, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) failed to exercise its oversight authority allowing for the proliferation of a new generation of tobacco products aimed at hooking youth smokers. The one major success for the federal government in 2012 was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) wildly successful Tips from Former Smokers advertising campaign, which spurred a dramatic rise in smokers seeking help to quit.

The state section of the report card was awash with Ds and Fs. State governments again failed to invest income from tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement payments into programs proven to keep youth off tobacco and help current smokers quit. Despite receiving $25.7 billion in tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes this year, more than 40 states received an F for not investing even half of what is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in proven tobacco prevention programs. According to the most recent U.S. Surgeon General's report, if states begin to invest in tobacco prevention programs, youth tobacco use could be cut in half in just six years.

States and the federal government have also failed to raise taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes. This led to a surge in the consumption of certain cheaper tobacco products, including flavored cigars that are popular among already vulnerable populations—youth, low income communities, Hispanics and LGBT.

Smoking costs the American public almost $200 billion every year in healthcare costs and lost productivity and wages – a staggering bill that the country can ill afford.

According to data from a report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics in a report called "Big Tobacco Wins Tax Battles," the tobacco industry was also hard at work making campaign contributions to candidates for political office and bankrolling efforts aimed at defeating ballot initiatives. Candidates for state office during the 2011-2012 election cycle accepted $53.4 million and the industry spent a whopping $46 million to defeat Proposition 29, which would have increased California's cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack. In addition, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the tobacco industry contributed over $3.7 million to candidates for federal office.

"It's no wonder we're losing ground in the fight to end tobacco-caused death and disease," stated Billings. "Elected officials are getting cozy with Big Tobacco."

What grades did your state receive? Our new infographic tracks where tobacco's money trail is leading the health of our nation – especially our children. Visit "State of Tobacco Control 2013" to learn more.