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Alaska Ranks 1st in Protecting Kids From Tobacco

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Alaska ranks first 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.

Counting both state funding and a federal grant, Alaska currently spends $11 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which meets the recommended funding level set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alaska is one of only two states, along with North Dakota, that meet the CDC's recommendation. Other key findings for Alaska include:

-- Alaska this year will collect $100 million from the 1998 tobacco
settlement and tobacco taxes and will spend 9.8 percent of it on tobacco
prevention programs.
-- The tobacco companies spend $24.9 million a year to market their
products in Alaska. This is 2.5 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 12 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.

"We congratulate Alaska for its leadership in the fight against tobacco use, the number one cause of preventable death," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "If it continues to invest in tobacco prevention, Alaska can look forward to preventing kids from smoking, saving lives and saving money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. Tobacco prevention is a smart investment that saves lives and saves money."

While Alaska is a leader in funding tobacco prevention programs, health advocates say the state can make further progress in reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke by passing a statewide smoke-free law that applies to all workplaces, restaurants and bars.

In Alaska, 15.7 percent of high school students smoke, and 1,100 more kids become regular smokers every year. Each year, tobacco claims 490 lives and costs the state $169 million in health care bills.

Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Altogether, the states have cut funding for these programs to the lowest level since 1999, when they first started receiving tobacco settlement payments. Key national findings of the report include:

-- The states this year will collect $25.3 billion from the tobacco
settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just two percent of it -
$517.9 million - on tobacco prevention programs.
-- States have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by nine percent
($51.4 million) in the past year and by 28 percent ($199.3 million) in
the past three years.
-- Only two states - Alaska and North Dakota - currently fund tobacco
prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level.

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 20.6 percent of adults and 19.5 percent of high school students still 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.

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

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

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