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Groups fault Mass. on anti-smoking program funding

December 9, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is getting poor marks on how much it spends on preventing children from taking up smoking and helping adult smokers quit.

A coalition of groups, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says the state ranks 36th in the nation in funding anti-smoking programs.

Massachusetts currently spends about $4 million on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, a fraction of the $90 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The coalition said that translates into less than half a percent of the nearly $945 million Massachusetts will collect this year from a 1998 tobacco settlement and through tobacco taxes.

Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz defended the state’s anti-smoking efforts, saying the state has lowered the percentage of young people using tobacco and is always looking for new ways to curb smoking.

“One of the things we’re really trying to focus on is what we think is deceptive packaging and practices,” Polanowicz said. “Fruit-flavored cigars are clearly not designed for the adult individuals. They’re designed to get kids to start to smoke.”

The youth smoking rate in 2011 was 14 percent. For adults, the smoking rate in 2012 was 16.4 percent.

Massachusetts currently ranks 7th lowest in the nation in adult smoking rates, according to state health officials.

Anti-smoking activists praised the state’s decision earlier this year to raise the cigarette tax $1 per pack, but said that’s not enough.

“To continue making progress, the state also needs to invest more in its underfunded tobacco prevention program,” Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew Myers said in a statement.

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