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New Report Finds Missouri is Falling Behind in Protecting Kids From Tobacco

More than 1-in-5 Missouri kids smoke; 8,500 more become regular smokers each year

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than one-in-five Missouri kids smoke cigarettes and another 8,500 will become regular smokers each year, according to a newly-released report that calls on state leaders to protect Missouri's kids by investing in a statewide tobacco prevention program that keeps kids from smoking and helps current smokers quit.


The report, titled Keeping the Promise: Protecting Missouri's Children from Tobacco, finds that Missouri continues to rank last or near last in the nation in its commitment to reducing the devastating toll of tobacco use, the No. 1 preventable cause of death in Missouri. The report was released today by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids at Missouri's first-ever youth tobacco summit in Jefferson City, where 500 Missouri youth are gathered to draw attention to the problem of tobacco and learn skills to fight back.

In Missouri, 23.8 percent of kids smoke-above the national average of 20 percent - but the state currently spends only $1.7 million a year on tobacco prevention programs, which is just 2.3 percent of the amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's despite receiving about $150 million annually in payments from the cigarette companies under the 1998 tobacco lawsuit master settlement.

"This report sounds a clear warning about what happens when states refuse to fund tobacco prevention programs at recommended levels - more kids become addicted to tobacco, more lives are lost and taxpayers pay more to treat tobacco-caused disease," said Aaron Doeppers, Midwest Regional Director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Every year in Missouri, tobacco use claims approximately 9,500 lives and costs the state more than $2.13 billion in health care bills, including $532 million under the Medicaid program. Smoking-caused government expenditures amount to a hidden tax of $592 per Missouri household. The tobacco industry spends $423 million a year on marketing in Missouri.

Fortunately, Missouri already has a blueprint for reducing tobacco's deadly toll, according to the report. State and national experts joined with officials from the state's Department of Health and Senior Services in 2006 to draft a comprehensive tobacco prevention plan for Missouri based on strategies proven highly-successful in other states. Missouri also has the committed professional staff prepared to successfully implement the plan, and an active and engaged group of youth ready to lead the way. The only problem is that lack of funding makes it impossible to put even a fraction of the plan into action.

"Tobacco is not only the No. 1 preventable cause of death and disease in Missouri - it is a substantial drag on the state economy. Meanwhile Missouri is failing to realize the intent of the funds from the MSA, and that is endangering Missouri's youth, who are being targeted as the next generation of addicted smokers. This report has shown that Missouri can and must do better," the report concluded.

"Providing significant funding for the first time to this critically-important and badly-needed state tobacco prevention program would produce enormous use declines and related public health and economic benefits. The people, businesses and taxpayers of Missouri deserve no less."

To view the entire report, please go to:

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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