Public health orgs call on state to use tobacco windfall to help kids and smokers

-A A +A

Public health orgs call on state to use tobacco windfall to help kids and smokers

Tue, 09/29/2020 - 9:53am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan has announced that Vermont will receive an extra $10.5 million this year as part of a settlement 22 years ago with the tobacco industry. This is a payout from an agreement reached in 2018 that Vermont had negotiated considering disputes for 2018 and 2022.

“We are pleased to hear that Vermont will receive an extra $10.5 million this year in Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) dollars,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Vermont Government Relations Director Jennifer Costa, “We must do everything we can to keep all Vermonters healthy and safe—which means building a strong public health infrastructure including comprehensive tobacco control measures.”

“The master settlement served as compensation to states for taxpayer money that had been spent in connection with tobacco-related diseases,” said Tina Zuk, Government Relations Regional Lead for the American Heart Association, “With 1000 Vermonters dying each year from smoking and 26 percent youth vaping, it’s critical we follow the science that shows a greater investment in prevention will save state spending by reducing tobacco-caused diseases.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommends Vermont spend $8.4 million to combat the health and economic consequences of tobacco. Currently, the state invests $2.7 million in the Department of Health’s tobacco prevention and cessation efforts and just over $950,000 in efforts to prevent tobacco use and enforce tobacco laws at the Agency of Education and Department of Liquor and Lottery.

Research shows additional funding spent on prevention has a multiplier effect and saves states millions on health care costs.

Lance Boucher, a Senior Division Director of State Public Policy for the American Lung Association said, "Tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death and disease in Vermont. With the major increase in e-cigarette use among our youth, it is imperative that Vermont dedicates these MSA funds to helping smokers quit and preventing another generation from becoming addicted to tobacco."

In Vermont, 15% of adults smoke cigarettes and 28.2% of high school students use tobacco products.  Smoking is estimated to cost Vermont $348 million in direct health care costs, including $87.2 million in Medicaid costs annually.  Fully funding evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs, along with regular and significant tobacco tax increases and comprehensive smoke-free laws can reduce tobacco use. 

“The MSA was intended to help states recover costs related to smoking and to help prevent additional such costs in the future,” said Kevin O’Flaherty, Northeast Region Director of Advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, “With smoking being a significant risk-factor for COVID-19, we should use this money to do everything we can to help Vermonters quit smoking and prevent our kids from ever becoming addicted to tobacco.”

According to projections from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, this increase would lead to:

  • A 14.1% decrease in youth smoking rates.
  • 1,680 fewer kids growing up to become addicted adult smokers.
  • 500 fewer kids growing up to die prematurely from smoking.
  • $35.2 million in future healthcare savings.

“By using the additional MSA money to increase funding to the CDC-recommended level of $8.4 million annually, our state can make the unequivocal statement that public health for all is a priority,” said Costa.

About the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont

The purpose of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont is to promote and assist in the implementation of policies and programs at the state, local, and national levels to reduce tobacco use and its impact on the health and economic well-being of Vermonters. For more information, visit http://www.tobaccofreevermont.org/.

MONTPELIER, VT – Sept. 29, 2020 – Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont