In a recent front page article, the Providence Journal reported that Rhode Island’s cigarette tax revenue is exceeding initial projections for the fiscal year. The Governor and General Assembly now have even less of an excuse to not spend a small portion of our state’s tobacco revenue on helping smokers quit and protecting kids from ever starting this deadly habit. This message is especially relevant as we recognize the 15th anniversary of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. To mark the anniversary, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids released its annual report ranking states on their state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The report, entitled “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 15 Years Later,” finds that states continue to spend only a miniscule portion of their tobacco revenues to fight tobacco use. States have also failed to reverse deep cuts to tobacco prevention and cessation programs that have undermined the nation’s efforts to reduce tobacco use. Rhode Island has the third highest cigarette tax in the country, but ranks 42nd in spending on tobacco prevention.
In FY2013, Rhode Island generated $178.5 million from tobacco products (state excise taxes plus the tobacco industry Master Settlement Agreement), yet we allocated just $376,437 -- two-tenths of one percent -- to tobacco control. The American Heart Association is working with our partners at Tobacco Free Rhode Island to ensure that the state adequately invests in tobacco prevention and cessation with the hopes of restoring the deep budget cuts of the past decade.
Do you think Rhode Island should invest more in tobacco prevention and cessation programs?