The State of Tobacco Control in Florida

On Jan. 16, the American Lung Association released the results of its annual report, “State of Tobacco Control 2013,” which monitors federal and state progress on key tobacco-related policies. The report focuses on the money received each year from tobacco taxes and legal settlements with tobacco companies.

The American Lung Association’s formula for grades is largely based on funding allocations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Florida has a constitutional amendment that ensures funding for a comprehensive tobacco education and use prevention program. In 2006, Florida’s voters approved a state constitutional amendment that called for reinstating a tobacco education and use prevention program. Tobacco Free Florida receives an amount equal to 15 percent of the funds paid to Florida in 2005 under the Tobacco Settlement.

As highlighted in the report: “Florida has witnessed remarkable success in reducing smoking rates in recent years. In 2012, only 3.3 percent of middle school students and 10.1 percent of high school students smoked a cigarette at least once during the past 30 days. Since 1998, smoking prevalence has decreased by a remarkable 82.2 percent among middle school students and by 63.1 percent among high school students.”

Since 2007, there are 30.3 percent fewer high school students and 45.9 percent fewer middle school students who reported current cigarette use. The decrease in tobacco use Florida youth is an indication of the effectiveness of the comprehensive tobacco prevention programs.

Comprehensive tobacco control programs, like Tobacco Free Florida, work to assist tobacco users in quitting. The state has more than half a million fewer adult smokers since 2007 and the rate of current cigarette smoking among adults has fallen to 19.3 percent. This decrease in smokers has saved the state at least $4.2 billion in personal health care costs by reducing the prevalence of tobacco use. The prevalence rate in Florida is below the national average, of 21.2 percent. In fact, among adult, there are more former smokers than current smokers in the state.

Despite the progress Florida has made, there is still work to be done. Every year, 28,600 adults in Florida die from smoking (443,000 deaths a year nationwide). For every person who dies, another 20 suffer from one or more serious illnesses from smoking. In addition, 21,300 Florida youth, under age 18, become new daily smokers each year (nearly 400,000 youth a year nationwide).

The Florida Department of Health and its Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida are confident in the approach to maximize the budget available for tobacco prevention. In 2010, the Florida Department of Health re-launched a comprehensive media campaign to demonstrate the severe health and emotional toll of tobacco-related death and disease. Research shows that hard-hitting media campaigns effectively promote quit attempts and reduce youth tobacco initiation.