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NC Ranks 45th For Tobacco Prevention And Cessation Spending

A Duke University study found a link between poverty and smoking in adolescents.
Valentin Ottone via Flickr, Creative Commons

North Carolina doesn't spend enough to keep people from smoking or help them quit. That's according to a report from a coalition of health organizations.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids report ranked North Carolina 45th in the country for spending on smoking and chewing prevention or cessation programs. The report says the state spent none of its tobacco tax revenue on those programs in fiscal year 2013.

Ricky Diaz of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says the state wants to serve its residents.

“DHHS cares deeply about providing quality tobacco prevention and cessation services and works to maximize funds appropriated by the General Assembly to help North Carolinians who want to quit, quit,” Diaz wrote in a statement.

The statement says the General Assembly allocated $1.9 million to fund QuitlineNC in fiscal year 2014. Diaz wrote that QuitlineNC launched in 2005, it has enrolled 76,393 North Carolina tobacco users to receive coaching.

But the health coalition report shows that  North Carolina is bringing in about $410 billion dollars this year from tobacco taxes and a big tobacco settlement from 1998. The General Assembly accolation is less than 2-percent of what the Centers for Disease Control recommend the state spend to stop smoking.

Chris Hansen of the American Cancer Society says North Carolina doesn’t have much to be proud of.

“You don't have statewide smoke-free laws that cover restaurants, bars and workplaces. You have the 45th lowest tobacco tax in the country, and that is a disincentive to smoking,” he says.

Hansen adds thay programs that help people quit smoking can save states money in future heath care costs, but many states use big tobacco settlement money to pay for unrelated budget items. He warns that settlement payments will end in 10 years.

“The state of North Carolina is going to just fall of a cliff when it comes to this spending,” sais Hansen. “One year, it’s just not gonna be there, and they’re gonna have to face it. It would be a lot smarter to use the money in a way that they can reduce their future spending so that they can manage this wisely, but that's not what they’re doing.”

The Tobacco-Free Kids report is available online.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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