Tobacco use is the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the United States, and while e-cigarettes are marketed as tools to help smokers quit, public health advocates fear they may be getting a new generation hooked.
Whatever the source, Georgia offers little state-funded support to help break the habit.
A new report from top public health groups ranks the state 47th nationwide in funding programs that help smokers quit and prevent people from using tobacco. According to the report, Georgia receives $393.3 million annually from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement and tobacco taxes, but spent just $750,000 in 2018 on prevention and cessation. The state spends far more — $3.2 billion annually — on tobacco use-related health care bills.
That $750,000 is money that came from the settlement, Georgia Department of Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam previously told GPB News, adding that additional money from the federal government allows the state to spend another $1.6 million on promoting quitting among adults and young adults.
We spoke with John Schachter, director of state communications for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which released the report with, among other groups, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. He told us what the state spends tobacco prevention and cessation programs is less than one percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend.
Georgia State University School of Public Health Dean Michael Eriksen, who previously directed the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, also explained where the MSA money has gone and elaborated on the challenges of addressing what health officials call the e-cigarette epidemic.