Report: Mass anti-smoking efforts trail other states

At $3.51 per pack, the cigarette tax in Massachusetts is considered high, but a new report places the Bay State among the states spending the least to prevent kids from smoking and to help smokers stop.

The report, released by anti-smoking groups, determined the $3.7 million being spent this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs is 5.6 percent of the $66.9 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and far less than the $117 million in marketing funds spent by the tobacco industry in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts ranked 35 in protecting kids from tobacco as measured by funding for anti-smoking programs, the report said.

Anti-smoking advocates have long appealed to Beacon Hill to reinvigorate its once nation-leading anti-tobacco campaign, which hasn’t received a funding increase in nearly a decade.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a 1998 settlement with the tobacco industry will deliver $884 million in revenue to state government this year, but only 0.4 percent of that sum will be spent on tobacco prevention programs.

“Through their youth prevention and other community-based activities, public education efforts and programs and services to help smokers quit, state programs play a critical role in helping to drive down tobacco use rates and serve as a counter to the ever-present tobacco industry,” the report said.

Massachusetts runs a Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program that includes youth programs, a hotline for smokers seeking help quitting and support for housing facilities that want to adopt smoke-free policies.

The legalization of marijuana for adult use in Massachusetts has also drawn attention to efforts to prevent youth from illicitly smoking or otherwise consuming that drug.

Massachusetts was ranked the healthiest state in the United States on Tuesday in a report that evaluated states based on 35 metrics.

The America’s Health Rankings report said the adult smoking rate in Massachusetts decreased from 18.2 percent to 13.6 percent in the past five years, and ranked the Bay State fifth lowest in percentage of adult smokers.

Anti-smoking activists say there’s more work to be done since 7.7 percent of high school students smoke in Massachusetts and an estimated 2,500 kids become regular smokers every year.

Nationwide, the high school smoking rate was at 8 percent in 2016, down from 28 percent in 2000, the report said.

“Massachusetts can be a leader again in fighting tobacco by increasing funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs and raising the tobacco age to 21,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement. “As Massachusetts itself has shown, we can win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free, but Massachusetts needs to keep doing its part to help us achieve these goals. Raising the state’s tobacco age to 21 would be an excellent step forward.”

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids backs a bill that would increase the tobacco-buying age three years to 21, a step already taken by more than 150 of the state’s 351 cities and towns.