One lesson we have learned from tobacco settlement dollars and tax revenue that have gone to fund tobacco prevention programs is that, when well-funded and comprehensive, prevention works.
Our state has had much success in preventing tobacco use among youth when our prevention programs were well funded. In a report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:
The Washington State Tobacco Prevention and Control program was implemented in 1999 after the state Legislature set aside money from the Master Settlement Agreement to create a Tobacco Prevention and Control Account. Tobacco prevention and control received additional funds in 2011 when the state's voters passed a cigarette tax that dedicated a portion of the new revenue to tobacco prevention and cessation.
- Since the tobacco control program was implemented, Washington has reduced the adult smoking rate by one-third, from 22.4 percent in 1999 to 15.2 percent in 2010. Washington's tobacco prevention efforts have also reduce youth smoking rates in half, saving additional lives and dollars.
An earlier study in the CDC's peer-reviewed journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, found that although Washington made progress in implementing tobacco control policies between 1990 and 2000, smoking prevalence did not decline significantly until after substantial investment was made in the state's comprehensive tobacco control program.
The following chart, from the Washington State Department of Health's most recent tobacco prevention progress report, shows the decline in youth smoking rates since 1999. The chart indicates that while our state has seen a significant reduction in use rates, progress has stalled since funding for prevention has been reduced.
What does an effective prevention program include?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established Best Practices that recommend key elements of tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
Key elements include:
- Hard-hitting education and media campaigns;
- Community and school-based programs;
- Effective enforcement of laws prohibiting tobacco sales to minors;
- Affordable, accessible assistance for smokers trying to quit;
- Rigorous evaluation to ensure these programs are delivering results.
While these reports focus on tobacco prevention, the lessons learned may be applied to all youth substance abuse prevention programs.