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Study says Mass., most other states lag on antismoking efforts

WASHINGTON -- Only three states -- Maine, Delaware, and Mississippi -- are spending money on antismoking efforts at or above minimum levels recommended by federal health officials, a coalition of public health groups said yesterday.

Once the nation's leader in antismoking programs, Massachusetts fell to 40th place, spending $3.8 million this year, according to a report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Altogether, the states have set aside $538 million for smoking prevention for fiscal 2005, which began in October and runs through September. That is just a third of the $1.6 billion minimum the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says should be spent nationwide, according to the report. The CDC's state recommendations are based on population and other factors.

The states are expected to receive $7.1 billion this year from the tobacco industry through legal settlements they reached with cigarette makers in the late 1990s, says the report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Lung Association.

The settlements were meant to help the states recoup the cost of treating sick smokers, and the states pledged to fund tobacco prevention programs. Meanwhile, states in recent years have been raising cigarette taxes, and are slated to get nearly $13 billion in tobacco tax revenues this year, the report says.

"The states are receiving more and more revenue related to tobacco but doing far too little to fund programs to reduce tobacco use, particularly among children," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "They're using the money to fill short-term budget shortfalls, build roads, and every other conceivable political purpose."

States that have allocated no significant funding for tobacco prevention are: Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Tennessee, the report said.

Massachusetts state spending amounts to a fraction of the CDC's minimum spending recommendation, which is between $35.2 million and $92.8 million for the state.

"There is no substitute for ongoing tobacco prevention programs," said Myers, the campaign's president. "Every year a new generation of kids reaches an age of vulnerability, and if we don't properly educate our kids using the mass media and community-based programs, we will see a serious backsliding in the progress Massachusetts has made."

Globe correspondent Elise Castelli contributed to this report.

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