Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lessons from tobacco prevention: well-funded programs work

According to a story I heard on the radio yesterday: States will rake in over $25 billion this year from tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement money.  However, less and less of that money will go toward prevention activities. 

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.

Washington's success
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.


Andrew Robinson said...

The strategies you propose make sense and are promising. As you likely know, engagement is the key to success in prevention. Only then does the prevention message become personal and powerful. I'd like to hear more about how you engage Seattle with prevention. Perhaps that can be the subject of a future post.

Thanks for all you do.

Andrew F. Robinson
People Change People

Inga Manskopf said...

Thanks for your comment about the importance of engagement, Andrew! As you know, coalitions are all about engaging the community to address issues of concern, in our case teen drug abuse.

To see how the Prevention WINS coalition has engaged the community, check out the media coverage from our Celebrate Healthy Youth event that took place in October. (Links to stories appear in the News & Press Releases tab of You will read about how school staff, parents, youth, police, media, and medical organizations have come together to create positive change.

In addition to helping community organizations sustain the prevention strategies discussed during the Celebrate Healthy Youth event, Prevention WINS is starting new prevention activities and engaging even more people in our community.

The Prevention WINS coalition meets quarterly (see the calendar at so that community members may learn more about what is happening in our community, share information, and plan for continued prevention activities. Most of the coalition's work gets done in smaller committees, enabling community members to have a direct impact on positive youth development. One of the committee's is dedicated to increasing youth engagement.

All coalition meetings are open to anyone interested in preventing teen drug abuse in a comprehensive, community-wide manner in NE Seattle.