In fiscal year 2013, Ohio ranked dead last, at $0 and No. 51, in state spending on tobacco prevention and cessation efforts, according to a survey by anti-tobacco organizations. Spending on prevention this fiscal year is $1.5 million, and the ranking has improved to No. 47. When you hit the bottom, there is nowhere to go but up.
Ohio is beginning to move in the right direction again. The current budget allocated $2.75 million a year in total for prevention and cessation programs and to enforce the Smoke Free Workplace Act. That is encouraging, to be sure, but there is little excuse for Ohio coming up short in preventing tobacco use, with its host of adverse health and productivity effects.
The report, released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart, Lung and Cancer associations, shows that tobacco use in Ohio remains well above national averages. More than 23 percent of Ohio adults still smoke compared to 19 percent nationally.
At 21 percent, the rate of smoking among the state’s high school students beats the 18 percent national average. Each year, 11,500 Ohioans younger than 18 become regular smokers. In 2013, young smokers bought or smoked 34.1 million packs of cigarettes.
According to the report, productivity losses resulting from smoking cost Ohio $4.85 billion a year. Annual health-care costs directly related to smoking add up to $4.37 billion.
Stack all $2.75 million allocated to anti-tobacco programs this year against the $395 million tobacco companies spend in Ohio each year in marketing, and it is a shame the state invests such a paltry sum, or nowhere near what is necessary to counter the effects of smoking. Tobacco sales generate $1.2 billion a year in state revenues. Studies indicate that raising the tax on tobacco products is an effective way to prevent use by children. A higher tax would curtail youth smoking. It also would provide additional revenues to bolster prevention and cessation programs.