States cut anti-smoking efforts despite tobacco money windfall

A sign at the entrance to Bryant Park notifies visitors of a smoking restriction in New York City.

A new report finds states are expected to collect record revenue this year from a 1998 settlement with the tobacco industry, taking in a total of almost $27 billion from the settlement and tobacco taxes. But only a tiny fraction of that money will be used to discourage people from smoking.

The study by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids finds states are spending less than two percent of the money on prevention -- only around $500 million a year.

Spokesman Vince Willmore says that doesn't come close to the $8 billion that the industry still puts into marketing:

"Tobacco companies spend more than $18 to encourage people to smoke for every $1 the states spend to keep kids from smoking and help smokers quit," says Willmore.

Most of the $27 billion in settlement money and tobacco taxes is going instead to plug budget holes, a move that Willmore calls  shortsighted. He says a recent study found every dollar spent on tobacco prevention saves states $5 in public health care expenses.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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