Tobacco use continues to be the largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 40 million U.S. adults still smoke cigarettes and about 4.7 million middle and high school students use at least one tobacco product, including electronic cigarettes.
While the tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year marketing its products, the American Lung Association has reported that only three states (Alaska, California and Maine) are currently funding their state tobacco control programs at the level recommended by the CDC. Overall, states collect over $27.5 billion from both tobacco settlements and tobacco taxes but spend less than 3 cents per dollar to help prevent and treat tobacco use. This is despite the National Institute of Health confirming that cessation efforts remain among the most cost-effective health care interventions.
Here in Montana, it is estimated $440 million is spent on tobacco-related health care costs each year. Compared to national averages for tobacco use, Montana ranks higher in several areas: adult smokers, high school smokers and high school e-cigarette users. In addition, more than 10 percent of Montana adults use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco.
Although tobacco use is high, and the majority of users began before they were 18, the CDC states that 7 out of 10 users want to quit. Experts agree quitting tobacco is more difficult than quitting heroin, cocaine or alcohol. The American Heart Association research supports this for two reasons: First, nicotine (the chemical compound found in all tobacco) is known to be highly addictive. Secondly, nicotine is available nearly everywhere. Any adult can stroll into a gas station or supermarket and buy tobacco with no questions asked.