(FRANKFORT, Ky - March 11, 2020) The Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow today alerted Kentucky Senators to a proposed 40 percent cut in what already was a declining state budget (HB352) to prevent tobacco use - including youth e-cigarette use - in the Commonwealth. The cut likely would eliminate local tobacco-control workers in dozens of Kentucky counties at a time when more than 80,000 youth in the state have begun using e-cigarettes, or "vapes."
Meanwhile, many local Kentucky health departments already are facing closure due to pension costs while also trying to respond to other recent and emerging public health threats. The Coalition recommends increasing Kentucky Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (KTPC) program funding to $10 million annually.
The $2 million annual KTPC budget now under consideration in the Senate would be the smallest in the history of the program, and represents a 40 percent cut from 2019-2020 and a 47 percent cut from 2018-2019. The current $3.3 million budget represents less than 6 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Meanwhile, Kentucky spends $1.92 billion annually to cover health costs directly caused by smoking, and each Kentucky household pays an average of $1,074 in extra taxes for smoking-related government expenditures. Revenues from tobacco total $516 million in Kentucky.
KTPC distributes funds to local health departments for tobacco-control specialists to conduct student prevention classes and community cessation programs, and for free nicotine replacement therapy for qualifying adults using programs such as 1-800-QuitNow to quit smoking. Additional funding would support a new, statewide digital and social media campaign to help counteract the more than $273.4 million annually that the tobacco and vaping industry spends marketing their products in Kentucky. Funding the KTPC program at $10 million a year would reduce future health care expenditures by $54.6 million, the Coalition said.
Kentucky Youth Tobacco Use:
As of 2019, nearly 53,400 high school students (26.1 percent) and 27,300 middle schoolers (17.3 percent) are current e-cigarette users; these numbers increased significantly from 2016 - nearly doubling for high school students and more than quadrupling for middle schoolers. Daily high school e-cig use also quadrupled from 2017 to 2019, to 22,700 (8.7 percent). In addition, more than 18,000 high school students and nearly 6,800 middle schoolers still smoke cigarettes in Kentucky.
The proposed House budget does contemplate $49.9 million over two years in new revenues from a proposed 25 percent excise tax on the wholesale price of e-cigarettes, currently not subject to such a tax, and also increase excise taxes on other tobacco products. This tobacco tax increase, included in HB32, has not yet been heard in the Senate. The Coalition supports an e-cigarette excise tax of 27.5 percent, which matches the current excise tax on cigarettes, as well as adding $1 to the current cigarette tax, to help fund additional prevention and cessation programming and cover tobacco-related health care expenditures.
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About the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow
The Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow is committed to its mission of improving Kentucky's health by protecting Kentuckians from secondhand smoke and other tobacco emissions, and by reducing the high rate of smoking and tobacco use in the Commonwealth. For more information, please visit www.smokefreetomorrow.org.
The Coalition is led by representatives of the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Baptist Health, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Humana, Kentucky Cancer Foundation, Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Council of Churches, Kentucky Equal Justice Center, Kentucky Health Collaborative, Kentucky Health Departments Association, Kentucky Hospital Association, Kentucky Medical Association, Kentucky Nurses Association, Kentucky School Boards Association, Kentucky Voices for Health, and Kentucky Youth Advocates. Other partners and members of the Coalition represent a broad array of more than 210 groups, including Kentucky business leaders, health advocates, health care providers and payers, educators, and faith community leaders.