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States Lag in Tobacco Prevention Spending; South Dakota Better than Most

The Center for Disease Control's latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (yes, such pleasurable afternoon reading) assesses states' use of their tobacco settlement money and tobacco taxes. We love that revenue so much that we have spent only a tiny fraction of those dollars on tobacco prevention:

...from 1998 to 2010... states collected $243.8 billion in total tobacco revenues from tobacco industry settlement payments and cigarette excise taxes. State and federal appropriations for tobacco control totaled $8.1 billion, whereas CDC's Best Practices recommended funding of at least $29.2 billion ($1.6 billion for 9 years plus $3.7 billion for 4 years). For the entire study period, the ratio of state tobacco revenues to state and federal tobacco control appropriations was approximately 30 to 1 ($243.8 billion to $8.1 billion); in 2010, the ratio was approximately 37 to 1 ($23.96 billion to $0.64 billion) ["State Tobacco Revenues Compared with Tobacco Control Appropriations — United States, 1998&ndash2010," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 25, 2012, Vol. 61, No. 20].

So in 2010, for every ten dollars we got from Big Tobacco, the several states spent a quarter and just about two pennies trying to get people to kick the habit.

Now even the CDC doesn't recommend spending every penny of tobacco revenues on prevention. Their recommended annual spending levels for tobacco control appropriations are about 15% of total tobacco revenues nationwide. But in 2010, the states spent only 17% of that recommended level.

South Dakota is a bit ahead of the curve. Out of $82 million in tobacco revenues, South Dakota spent $6.0 million on tobacco prevention in 2010, 53% of what CDC recommended. Only nine states come closer than South Dakota to meeting the CDC's spending guidelines... and they aren't all liberal nanny-states. Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, and Wyoming all came closer to the CDC's tobacco-fighting guidelines than we did.

The only state fully meeting the CDC's recommended funding levels: North Dakota, which actually spent 1% more than the CDC Best Practice level. Of course, North Dakota has perhaps a keener interest in preventing smoking: the last thing you want during an oil boom is an oil boom.


  1. D.E. Bishop 2012.05.31

    Clever last line!

  2. Carter 2012.05.31

    There's a bit of a problem when it comes to taxing tobacco while also trying to get people to stop buying it, which is that when people do stop buying it, the tax money goes away. States are essentially incentivized by the tax to not try to get rid of tobacco, and so they don't put much of the tax money into it.

    Of course, there are other reason why states might not want to put the full 15% of tobacco revenue into tobacco prevention, but I would be surprised to see many states hit that 15% mark without some kind of requirement.

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