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National Report Ranks Alaska 2nd in Protecting Kids from Tobacco

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Alaska ranks 2nd in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.

Alaska currently spends $8.6 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 80 percent of the $10.7 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last year, Alaska ranked No. 1, spending $9.2 million on tobacco prevention.

Other key findings for Alaska include:
-- Alaska this year will collect $105 million from the 1998 tobacco
settlement and tobacco taxes and will spend just 8.2 percent of it on
tobacco prevention programs.
-- The tobacco companies spend $24.9 million a year to market their
products in Alaska. This is three times what the state spends on
tobacco prevention.



The annual report on states' funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 11 Years Later," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"Alaska has made a solid commitment and again is one of the top states this year when it comes to protecting kids from tobacco," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "To continue reducing tobacco use, it is critical that Alaska's leaders build on their commitment and increase funding to the CDC's recommended amount. Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is a smart investment that reduces smoking, saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."

In Alaska, 17.8 percent of high school students smoke, and 900 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco claims 490 lives and costs the state $169 million in health care bills.

Eleven years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, the new report finds that the states this year are collecting record amounts of revenue from the tobacco industry, but are spending less of it on tobacco prevention. Key national findings of the report include:

-- The states this year will collect $25.1 billion from the tobacco
settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 2.3 percent of it -
$567.5 million - on tobacco prevention programs. It would take less
than 15 percent of their tobacco revenue to fund tobacco prevention
programs in every state at CDC-recommended levels.
-- In the past year, states have cut funding for tobacco prevention
programs by 15.4 percent, or $103.4 million.
-- Only one state - North Dakota - currently funds a tobacco prevention
program at the CDC-recommended level.
-- Only nine other states fund prevention programs at even half the
CDC-recommended amount.
-- 40 states and the District of Columbia are spending less than half the
CDC-recommended amount. Of these, 31 states and DC are providing less
than a quarter of the recommended funding.

The report warns that the nation's progress in reducing smoking is at risk unless states increase funding for programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The United States has significantly reduced smoking among both youth and adults, but the CDC's most recent survey showed that smoking declines among adults have stalled. Currently 20 percent of high school students and 20.6 percent of adults smoke.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers - one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

More information, including the full report and state-specific information, can be obtained at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.

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