The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids recently released their annual state report card on tobacco use and spending. This report card comes at an interesting time of national discussion around tobacco prevention. Let’s look at how Montana is doing:
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Montana adults who smoke: 18.5% vs the National Average: 15.1%
Montana High School Students who smoke: 13.1% vs the National Average: 8%
Annual State Health Care costs directly caused by smoking: $440 million
Montana residents’ annual state and federal tax burden due to smoking: $779 per household
Deaths in Montana caused by smoking each year: 1600
Estimated annual tobacco industry marketing in MT: $28.9 million
It’s clear that we are falling behind when we look at these numbers, specifically regarding smoking rates among adults and teens. One reason could be the $28.9 million dollars tobacco companies spend on marketing in Montana each year. It is well noted and documented that these marketing strategies are meant to lure kids and teens into smoking, with kid-friendly flavors like bubble gum and gummy bear.
What is also alarming is the rate of tobacco use among people below the poverty line, LGBT Americans, and those with mental illness. In a recent report by the Truth Initiative, it was noted that these differences can be credited to the tobacco industry’s targeted advertising to these populations.
What Can We Do?
Nationally, we must advocate that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully regulate all tobacco products. Limiting nicotine in cigarettes to the minimally addictive or non-addictive levels would be a great start. Additionally, we would like to see steps to prohibit the use of menthol and other flavors in tobacco products and mandating graphic warning messages on cigarette packs.
In Montana, we can look deeper at our tobacco prevention funding. Currently the industry outspends our prevention efforts at a ratio of 5.5 to 1. Montana recently cut its tobacco prevention budget by about $1 million dollars. Other ways we can reduce use would be to raise the tobacco tax by at least one dollar, raise the legal sales age to 21, and prohibit the sale of menthol and other flavored products.
If you would like to be involved in any of these efforts, please contact Amanda Cahill firstname.lastname@example.org
To see the full Montana report from Campaign for Tobacco Free kids, click here: https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/what-we-do/us/statereport/montana