Health Care

Kansas and Missouri among worst in using tobacco lawsuit money to prevent smoking

Making our next generation tobacco free

Smoking kills more than 1,200 people every day. Every tobacco-related death is replaced by two new smokers under the age of 25. The U.S. Surgeon General released her new report, "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults."
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Smoking kills more than 1,200 people every day. Every tobacco-related death is replaced by two new smokers under the age of 25. The U.S. Surgeon General released her new report, "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults."

Despite recommendations from federal health officials, Missouri spends a pittance of the funds it receives from a settlement with tobacco companies, as well as taxes on their products, on programs aimed at preventing smoking, according to a new study.

Missouri allocated $48,500 — less than the state’s median household income — in its current fiscal year for tobacco prevention programs, even though it received $259 million in tobacco taxes and from tobacco companies. That’s according to a December report by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association and others.

Missouri is the worst among states that spent any money on smoking-cessation programs; three states — Tennessee, Connecticut and West Virginia — spent nothing at all. Missouri’s spending amounts to a fraction of a percent of the $72.9 million that the Centers for Disease Control recommends the state spend on programs to help tobacco users quit or to keep people from picking up the habit.

The report estimates that the tobacco industry spends $364.9 million in marketing its products in Missouri each year.

Kansas fared only marginally better. It ranked 41st among the 50 states and the District of Columbia by spending $847,041.

The report comes on the 20th anniversary of a landmark 1998 settlement between tobacco companies and 46 states that claimed tobacco products — cigarettes, cigars, chew and others — were a public health hazard and forced states to spend money on tobacco-related heath care costs.

Tobacco companies were required to make annual payments to each state in perpetuity; through 2018, those payments totaled $126.6 billion, according to data published by the National Association of Attorneys General.

States had pledged to use most of that money, as well as taxes on tobacco products, to offset public health costs created by tobacco use, as well as to devote funding to smoking cessation programs.

But less than 3 percent of those funds actually go to those programs. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids report found that states will receive $27.3 billion in settlement funds and tobacco taxes this year but spend $665 million on smoking prevention and cessation programs. California, among the few outliers, spent $250 million on such programs in its current budget year.

“This year’s report finds that, once again, most states get a failing grade and are spending a small fraction of their tobacco revenues to fight tobacco use and the enormous public health problems it causes,” the report said.

In Missouri, where nearly 21 percent of adults smoke, annual public costs associated with smoking exceed $3 billion, according to the report. In Kansas, where 17.4 percent of adults smoke, that figure is $1.12 billion.

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