ANTI-SMOKING CAMPAIGNS: State Efforts Work, Says CDC
While states that have launched large-scale anti-smoking campaigns have seen their smoking rates drop, especially among youths, too few states have committed the necessary resources to such programs, according to CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan. Speaking yesterday at the fifth annual National Conference on Tobacco and Health, Koplan released figures showing that youth smoking has dropped in states like California, Oregon and Massachusetts, which have undertaken massive anti-smoking efforts. California has the second-lowest adult smoking rate, at 18.4%, surpassed by only Utah, which came in under 15%. California, Koplan said, has "a very varied and multiethnic population ... but they had the foresight to provide the resources for an aggressive tobacco control campaign, and it worked." By contrast, Kentucky, with very few tobacco controls, "had the highest adult smoking rate in the nation" in 1997 at 30.8%, up from 27.8% in 1995. Kentucky's youth smoking rate also topped other state's, with 47% of high schoolers saying they had smoked in the last month. Koplan said, "This shows that you pays your money and you takes your choice. It's a dose-response relationship -- the bigger dose of the drug, in this case, tobacco control, you administer, the more response you get." But Amy Barkley, project manager for the tobacco control coalition Kentucky Action, blamed other factors than simple resource allocation. She said, "It's deplorable that we have the highest youth-smoking rate, but understandable given our culture. The public policy environment here is very poor" (Pilcher, AP/Owensboro Messenger- Inquirer, 8/25). Similarly, the CDC reported that 36% of youth in North Carolina, another tobacco-rich state, smoke. Jim Martin, North Carolina field director for Project ASSIST, said, "Unfortunately, we are nickel-and-diming the public-health problem of smoking" (Mitchell, Winston-Salem Journal, 8/25). Deborah Bryan, director of program and government relations for the American Lung Association of North Carolina, said, "Those numbers demonstrate the fact that we don't have anything comprehensive out there to remedy the problem. The more alarming fact is that figure has been rising over the last five years" (Jameson, Charlotte Observer, 8/25).
Settlement Is Critical
Koplan lamented the fact that many states are wasting an opportunity to reduce their smoking rate by not taking advantage of the tobacco settlement to devote more money to prevention programs. He said, "Smoking is a communicable disease. We have the vaccine. We have a spectrum of activities and regulations that have been shown to work. We're just frittering away our resources." Koplan suggested that states devote one-third of their respective settlement shares to tobacco-control, noting that only six states of 46 "have made substantial commitments to spend money on prevention" (Liston, Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/25). They are New Jersey, Hawaii, Vermont, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington. Four states -- Minnesota, Texas, Florida and Mississippi -- entered into separate settlements with the industry (Stout, New York Times, 8/25). And only 10 other states have committed any funds at all. Koplan said, "Prevention is something we can embrace conceptually, but we tend to lose sight of it when it competes with other issues. We have nothing to show when we prevent something. All you can show are fewer smokers" (Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/25).