Texas Failing to Spend Tobacco Taxes, Settlements on Anti-Smoking Efforts

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Texas collects millions of dollars a year from tobacco taxes and settlements with large tobacco companies which deceived Texans about the harms of cigarettes for decades. That money is meant to be spent on anti-tobacco campaigns. Unfortunately, Texas is failing to spend that money properly, allocating less than half of that revenue to anti-tobacco spending. The American Lung Association just gave Texas an 'F' when it comes to spending money to prevent tobacco use.

“We are faced with a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry that's determined to maintain its market share at the expense of our kids and current smokers,” said Paul G. Billings, American Lung Association Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Education. “State and federal policymakers must battle a changing Big Tobacco and step up to fund programs and enact policies proven to reduce tobacco use.”

Read more below the jump. Warning: includes graphic imagery showing the consequences of inaction on tobacco use.Depressingly, 40 other states and D.C. also received 'F's for failing to spend more than half of tobacco revenue on anti-tobacco efforts. So clearly it can't be blamed just on Texas's extremist corporatist government. But Big Tobacco certainly has a strong hold over Texas government. For example, Phillip Morris has donated in the thousands to Rick Perry's campaigns, and Perry held a fundraiser at Phillip Morris's parent company Altria's headquarters in 2010. R.J. Reynolds donated $10,000 to one Republican PAC alone in 2010.

Aspects of public life feel obvious to many people who follow politics. To me, it feels crystal clear why tobacco revenue should be spent on anti-tobacco campaigns. But to convince others to agree with you, it's important to explain why something seems obvious.

Tobacco-caused health concerns (cancer, emphysema, heart attacks, strokes, and the list continues) cost our country and our state billions of dollars each year. Tobacco deaths and diseases cost the U.S. $167 billion yearly in the form of health care expenses ($75 billion) and lost productivity ($92 billion). The Texas Medical Association explains that “Every year the direct medical expenses of smoking, loss of workplace productivity, and premature death cost Texas more than $20 billion. This means that while the average retail price of a pack of cigarettes is $5.52, the actual cost to the Texas economy is $21 per pack.

Clearly, anti-tobacco campaigns, which have been proven to reduce the rate of smoking, would save our state money. But anti-tobacco use is also a quality of life issue. In Texas, more than 24,500 deaths each year are linked to tobacco. To promote the health and wellbeing of Texans and their families, Texas should spend tobacco tax and settlement revenue on anti-smoking campaigns. Failing to do so is failing Texans.

About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it affects every other issue in American politics. He is currently on leave for the election season.

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