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Utah ranks 17th in anti-tobacco expenditures

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When Utah got involved with 46 states and sued the nation's major tobacco companies 10 years ago, the companies settled and agreed to pay the states to recover tobacco-related health-care costs. Part of the money was to be used to fund tobacco-reduction programs.

Utah did just that. According to a statement issued by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the state spends $8.2 million per year on tobacco-prevention programs, which is 17th in the nation for anti-tobacco programs.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Utah spend $23.6 million of the $105 million it receives, an amount that would have the most impact for reducing tobacco use.

"Utah had made a modest investment in programs to protect kids from tobacco, but is spending less than half what the CDC recommends," said president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Matthew L. Myers.

An alliance of public health organizations, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, issued a report titled "A Decade of Broken Promises." The report finds most states, including Utah, did not use a significant portion of their awards to fund anti-smoking programs as promised.

Myers said Utah should raise cigarette taxes to increase funding for prevention programs, which he said ultimately would save the state money by reducing tobacco-related health-care costs, an estimated $345 million cost to taxpayers.

Also, spending more for smoking prevention would offset tobacco companies' continued marketing efforts, he said. Though big tobacco is paying states as part of the settlement, the companies still want customers. Consequently, they spend almost $58 million in Utah for advertising to lure new customers and bring back strays to the fold.

Though smoking cessation programs are working in the state, 7.9 percent of Utah's high school students smoke. Each year, 1,600 new regular smokers are added to Utah's smoker population.

For more information visit www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements.

E-mail: lwilde@desnews.com