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Report Ranks Maine Near Top for Funding Tobacco Prevention

PHOTO: Maine's smoking-prevention efforts are ahead of most states, according to a national report that ranks it seventh in the nation for the amount spent on prevention and cessation programs, but advocates say much more could be accomplished. Photo credit: Mike Clifford
PHOTO: Maine's smoking-prevention efforts are ahead of most states, according to a national report that ranks it seventh in the nation for the amount spent on prevention and cessation programs, but advocates say much more could be accomplished. Photo credit: Mike Clifford
January 12, 2015

AUGUST, Maine - The latest report on how well states are funding tobacco prevention and cessation efforts has Maine ranked at number seven in the nation.

John Schachter, director of communications with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says that puts Maine near the top for what states spend, although he says that bar is set low. Maine will take in $186 million in tobacco tax and settlement revenue this year, and will spend just a little over $8 million to help smokers quit and prevent kids from starting.

"Maine ranks seventh in spending just over 50 percent of what the CDC recommends," he says. "But of course, when any of these states' numbers are put up against what the tobacco industry spends on marketing, especially towards kids, these numbers pale even more in comparison."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Maine double its tobacco-prevention spending to at least $16 million a year. Meantime, the report indicates the tobacco industry spends more than $40 million annually to market its products in Maine.

The report points to Florida as an example other states should follow. Schachter says the Sunshine State cut its high school smoking rate in half, from 15 percent to 7.5, by adequately funding tobacco prevention through a voter-approved ballot initiative.

"We would actually save 2.3 million lives, over $120 billion in healthcare costs," says Schachter. "We would
prevent seven million kids from becoming adult smokers, if we can get every state to just achieve Florida's rate, let alone go beyond that."

Schachter says if Maine followed Florida's lead, the state could save more than 8,000 lives, as well $413 million in healthcare expenses. He adds, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S, with nearly a half-million deaths each year.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME