Few States Spend Settlement Funds on Tobacco-Control Programs, New England Journal Study Finds
A small percentage of states' tobacco settlement funds are spent on programs to reduce smoking, according to a study published in today's New England Journal of Medicine, Reuters reports. Yale University School of Medicine researchers found that only 6% of the funds states received from national tobacco settlement in fiscal year 2001 went toward tobacco-control programs. Reuters reports that although the settlement allows states to spend the funds as they see fit, anti-smoking advocates had hoped states would use the money to reduce smoking rates (Emery, Reuters, 10/2). Overall, the study that found tobacco-producing states spend half as much on tobacco control as other states. However, when excluding tobacco-producing states, the study found that states with the most smokers spend the least on tobacco-control programs. "State spending ranges from a shockingly low 10 cents per capita in Pennsylvania to $15.47 [per capita] in Maine, depending on the 'local tobacco culture,'" Dr. Steven Schroeder, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said. Cary Gross of the Yale University School of Medicine, who led the research team, said that only six states -- Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts and Mississippi -- met or exceeded CDC guidelines on tobacco-control spending. Reuters reports that 15 states have taken action to use tobacco settlement funds to balance their budgets, making it unlikely that those funds will be allocated for tobacco control (Reuters, 10/2). Given that "only a very small proportion of the tobacco settlement is being used for tobacco-control programs, the settlement represents an unrealized opportunity to reduce morbidity and mortality from smoking," the study concludes (Gross et al., New England Journal of Medicine, 10/3).
In a separate study published in yesterday's NEJM, University of California-San Diego researchers found that telephone counseling is effective in helping smokers who want to quit, the AP/Nando Times reports. Thirty-three states operate telephone "quitlines" and the researchers, who operate California's program, found that smokers who received counseling via the hotlines quit at twice the rate of smokers who did not use the hotlines. The researchers enrolled 3,282 callers in the study, sending each a packet of self-help information. One group of callers received an average of three counseling sessions each, while members in the second group received counseling only if they called the quitline as instructed. After one month, 21% who had counseling stopped smoking, compared with 10% of those who did not have counseling. However, many study participants relapsed, as the rates dropped to 8% and 4%, respectively, after one year. Schroeder suggested that states without quitlines should use tobacco settlement funds to create one (Nano, AP/Nando Times, 10/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.