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Budget Finally Passes with Good News on Tobacco

Vermont's Tobacco Control Program will Get a Big Bump.

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One of the winners, when the dust settled after budget battles concluded between Governor Scott and the Vermont legislature, was Vermont's Tobacco Control Program.

The program, which had previously received $3.6 million in funding for tobacco prevention, cessation, and enforcement activities, got a significant bump in funding, bringing it to over half of the CDC's recommended spending level.

The budget allocated an additional $1 million from a one-time Master Settlement payment to the program, bringing its total funding to $4.6 million.

The additional funding for the program will allow the state to continue the significant progress it has made in reducing smoking rates and preventing youth smoking while saving health care spending. Since the tobacco program began, adult smoking rates have dropped from 24% to approximately 18% and youth smoking rates dropped from 40% to 11%. An independent evaluation by RTI showed that because of the investment in the tobacco control program, Vermont saved more than $1.43 billion in what otherwise would have spent treating tobacco-related illnesses.

But challenges remain. 25% of Vermont youth are now using some form of tobacco or vaping product. The adult rate has not changed in several years and lags behind the nation’s rate of 15.5%. And Vermont spends $348 million in healthcare costs related to tobacco, of which $87.2 million is Medicaid spending.

The Vermont Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board notes Vermont could save $229 million if it reduced the current adult smoking rate to 12%. According to the CDC, if Vermont invested the minimum recommended amount of $1.1 million into media and counter-marketing (it currently spends $923,000), the program could run an additional 6-8 adult cessation campaigns each year. The anticipated result of investing this funding would be a lower adult prevalence from 17% to 15%.

This new funding could get us there.

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