U.S. - Cash-strapped states cut smoking-prevention funds..

May 28, 2009 - Cash-strapped state governments are slashing funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs in a move anti-tobacco groups say could backfire, costing taxpayers later for treatment of tobacco-related illnesses among people who might've quit.

In Vermont, a recently adopted state budget reduced funding for anti-tobacco efforts by $1.9 million from the previous year, which critics say will force cutbacks in youth smoking-prevention activities and at hospitals that offer in-person smoking-cessation counseling and nicotine-replacement therapy. In Vermont, for example, the state estimates that it saves up to $5 million annually in Medicaid expenses as an indirect result of its quit-smoking initiatives.

Other states have made similar cuts, or are contemplating them:

_In Washington state, lawmakers cut $22 million from tobacco prevention programs for the next two years, which will reduce paid public service announcements on radio and TV and force curtailment of a quit line.

_In Maryland, the state slashed funding for tobacco control in the fiscal year beginning July 1 from $16.7 million last year to $4.6 million.

_In Colorado, where lawmakers dipped into a cash reserve from the 1998 tobacco industry settlement and imposed a sales tax on cigarettes to help balance the state budget, funding for tobacco education and cessation programs was cut by $6 million.

"You're seeing disproportionate cuts to tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and it's a foolish strategy," said Thomas Carr, manager for national policy for the American Lung Association. "It may solve the budget deficit now, but it increases your costs in the long run, because of the costs tobacco use imposes on state economies in health care costs and lost productivity."

Smokers wanting to quit are calling state-run hotlines in record numbers these days, in part because of skyrocketing taxes on cigarettes, according to Fisher. On April 1, the federal tax on cigarettes jumped to $1.00 per pack, and some states are jacking up their taxes on tobacco, as well.

Reference: Strapped states cut smoking-prevention funds by By JOHN CURRAN (Associated Press writers Colleen Slevin in Denver and Curt Woodward in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report), Associated Press, 5/26/2008.

A couple related news brief: Smokers now more motivated to quit..; Quit-smoking hotlines are being swamped...

Click on image to enlarge..Sperrin Lakeland Trust.