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Kick Butts Day is a program of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Kick Butts Blog

Hey states, step up and fund tobacco prevention

Posted by Tyler Boyle on 14 Dec 2015

This week, I had the great honor of speaking with reporters at media stations around the country as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids launched its annual state funding report.

This year’s report found that tobacco companies spend $20 on marketing their products for every $1 states spend on funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs. This is appalling. Tobacco use is still the No. 1 cause of preventable death, and most states aren’t doing enough to fight it. According to the report, “the tobacco companies spend more on marketing in a single day ($26.3 million) than all but three states—California, New York, and Florida—spend on tobacco prevention programs in an entire year.”

Coming from Kentucky, I have seen the effects of minimal spending on tobacco prevention firsthand. Kentucky has an adult smoking rate of 26.5 percent. Because the state fails to adequately fund prevention programs, Kentucky continues to have one of the highest rates of smoking.

However, there are people trying to combat Big Tobacco’s influence. In my hometown alone, we hosted political forums, met with many elected officials to advocate for a comprehensive smoke-free workplace ordinance and held events to educate our community. Other youth advocates are taking action as well, whether it is by advocating for tobacco-free parks, changing social norms in their schools or advocating for increased funding for their prevention program.

I have been a youth advocate fighting Big Tobacco since the summer of 2013. My grandmother died from lung cancer when I was four years old. At the time I could not grasp why she died, but over the last few years I have begun to understand the connection between her death and the multi-billion dollar industry that makes and markets the product that killed her.

Tobacco companies manufacture products that they know are deadly and addictive. They do not care about my grandmother, my neighbor’s wife, my best friend’s grandfather or the others who have died from using their products – they care about profit. How do they continue to make a profit if their customers continue to die? Well, in short, they market their products in ways that appeal to kids. The tobacco industry still targets youth through heavy marketing and discounting in stores, ads in magazines with large youth readerships, flavored tobacco products, and e-cigarette marketing that re-glamorizes tobacco use.

It’s up to advocates and the states to stand up to Big Tobacco and end the tobacco epidemic for good. We could make a huge difference if our states invested in tobacco prevention. By doing what we know works, we can end this preventable epidemic and create a healthier future. I will keep fighting Big Tobacco like millions of lives depend upon it; I can only hope that our states do the same.

Learn more about the 2015 State Report

Related Keywords: tobacco industry,
About Tyler BoyleTyler is the 2015 South Region Youth Advocate of the Year. Tyler revitalized the SMACC (Students Make the Change in Our Community) club on his high school campus three years ago and was a leader in the Smoke-Free Kentucky movement. He is a freshman at Vassar College in New York.
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