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July 21, 2017

Show Me the Money: NC Tobacco Funds Diverted from Prevention Programs

North Carolina collected $412 million last year from its tax on tobacco and the settlement made with cigarette companies in the 1990s, and spent just over $1 million of that on tobacco prevention programs.

That’s significantly lower than the recommended spending by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is $99 million annually.

Those facts are highlighted in a report released this month by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which ranks the Tar Heel State 47th in the country when it comes to spending on anti-tobacco efforts.

John Schachter, a campaign spokesman, says smoking generates $3.8 million dollars in annual health care costs.

“You know with these high costs for the state to be spending only $1.2 million dollars in prevention and cessation is just not serving the kids or the future of the state,” he stresses.

North Carolina’s tobacco tax is 45 cents per pack, well below the national average of a$1.60.

Schachter says while the state spends a fraction its tobacco income on prevention and education, the tobacco industry spends over $392 million annually in the state on marketing.

Up until 2012, North Carolina spent about $16 million annually on tobacco prevention. Lawmakers eliminated funding totally in 2013, and since then have restored funding to a fraction of what it once was.

“States used to spend, across the board, a lot more on tobacco prevention programs,” Schachter points out. “And over the years, as state budgets have been in flux and as we’ve made great strides in fighting tobacco use, you’ve seen states back off of their spending.”

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 20 percent of North Carolina adults and 15 percent of high school students smoke.

Schachter says North Carolina and its neighbors feel a significant burden from tobacco’s effects.

“The impact of tobacco use is more heavily weighed on southern states,” he states. “These are states that have higher tobacco usage rates, higher cancer rates, higher heart disease rates, really a lot of the issues that deal with smoking-related issues are worse in that region.”

According to the report, the health costs generate a state and federal tax burden of $889 per household per year.

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