Tobacco kills more people in Michigan than alcohol, auto accidents, drug overdoses, murders and suicides combined, and is still the number one cause of preventable death in our state. Adult smoking rates in Michigan have decreased but are still more than 23 percent – making it 41st among the states – and 14 percent of our youth are still enticed by tobacco companies to take up smoking.
As a respiratory therapist, I’m deeply concerned about the continued marketing of tobacco to our youth. Every year, tobacco use costs Michigan more than $7.4 billion in health care and lost productivity. There is solid evidence that enacting comprehensive strategies to reduce the toll of tobacco is both necessary and successful. These strategies include increasing the excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products, tobacco cessation and tobacco prevention programs, and public policy that protects our citizens’ right to breathe smoke-free air.
However, Michigan has fallen far behind in allocating resources toward reducing the health risks and economic costs from smoking. We are 44th nationally in tobacco prevention spending, and the 2014 budget calls for only $4.7 million to be spent on tobacco control programs statewide.
This is less than 4 percent of what is recommended by the CDC, and is minuscule compared to the $270 million the tobacco companies spend on marketing in Michigan every year. Michigan received $347.2 million in a Master Settlement Agreement from Tobacco Companies in 2013, but spent none of those funds on tobacco prevention programming. It is common sense that a portion of this settlement be spent on treating and preventing tobacco-related illness to protect the health of all Michigan residents, especially our youth. I urge our lawmakers to increase funding for evidence-based tobacco prevention programs and to increase the cost of all tobacco products.