CDC: Amid vaping epidemic and marketing push, states underfund anti-tobacco programs

The CDC says Florida should nearly triple its spending on anti-smoking and anti-vaping efforts. Getty Images/Katrina Lane

State spending on programs to prevent tobacco use in Florida amounts to one-third of what the Centers for Disease Control recommends, while the tobacco industry spends eight times that much marketing its products here, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

In its “Broken Promises” analysis, the Cancer Action Network, a non-profit advocacy affiliate of the Cancer Society, reports how much money from the landmark 1998 tobacco liability settlement and annual tobacco taxes each state spent during 2019 to prevent tobacco use and to help users quit.

Florida was among the top four states (with California, New York, and Texas) for annual spending on smoking-caused illnesses, at $8.6 billion. It was among the top three (with California and Texas) for marketing by tobacco companies, at $614 million, according to the analysis.

“Smoking-related heath care costs are one of the biggest expenditures in the state and the leading cause of preventable deaths in Florida,” said Matt Jordan, Florida government relations director for the Cancer Action Network. “It’s of utmost importance.”

Florida spending on anti-tobacco programs is one-third of the CDC recommendation and one-eighth of the amount spent on tobacco marketing, Graphic: Cancer Action Network

In Florida, cigarette-smoking kills 32,300 people a year, according to Tobacco-Free Florida, the state’s central office for tobacco-use reduction efforts.

Jordan said Florida has made excellent strides over the years in reducing cigarette use among adults (down to 15 percent) and young  people (down to 3 percent), but vaping has triggered a resurgence of tobacco use among young people.

“Twenty-six percent of high school students are vaping,” Jordan said. “We could have another whole generation addicted to these products.” He said 99 percent of tested vaping products contain addictive nicotine, including some labeled nicotine-free, but they remain largely unregulated.

Florida ranked 11th nationwide for 2019 spending on tobacco prevention and cessation, allocating $72 million, which was 37 percent of the $194 million the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, says is needed in light of Florida’s population, demographics, disease rates, and mortality.

With full funding at the CDC-recommended level, Florida could expand its education and cessation programs to reach more areas with high rates of adult smokers and at-risk youth, Jordan said. In particular, Tobacco-Free Florida could intensify its anti-vaping efforts to prevent addiction among teenagers, a programming branch in just its first year.

The Cancer Action Network advocates regulating e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes, including restrictions on sales and marketing of to youth. The tobacco industry outspends Florida’s education and prevention programs by 8 to 1, according to the analysis.

The organization also supports raising taxes on tobacco and vaping products, Jordan said, and increasing state funding to make smoking-cessation products more widely available to low-income smokers trying to quit.

In 2020, state spending on prevention and cessation programs nationwide is forecast to be less than 3 percent, or $740 million, of the $27 billion in revenue states receive from the tobacco liability settlement agreement and tobacco taxes. No state fully funds the CDC-recommended spending to keep young people from taking up the habit and to help older users give it up, although California comes close.

Six states spend more than $2 billion a year each treating smoking-related illnesses but budget less than 1 percent of the amount the CDC recommends for prevention and cessation programs. They are Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.

This story was updated to correct the estimated cost of smoking-related illness in Florida. The corrected number is $8.6 billion.