Olympia - July 20, 2001 - A new federal study offers encouraging signs that anti-tobacco programs funded by the states' 1998 settlement with major tobacco companies are helping reduce the use of tobacco among young people, Attorney General Christine Gregoire said today.
The study, released by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, shows that smoking rates for students in grades eight to 12 have significantly declined since Washington joined 45 other states and the District of Columbia in settling lawsuits with the tobacco companies.
"These figures are an encouraging sign that efforts by the nation's attorneys general-working in partnership with the public health community-have curbed the tobacco industry's targeting of young people and have given them the facts about the deadly consequences of tobacco use," said Gregoire, who was lead negotiator for the states in the tobacco settlement. Gregoire currently chairs the board of directors of the American Legacy Foundation, a national organization that conducts anti-tobacco programs with money provided by the settlement.
According to the report, entitled "America's Children: Key National Indicators of Children's Well-Being 2001," smoking rates by children in grades eight through 12 peaked just before the settlement agreement, and have been declining since then.
Smoking rates for 12th graders declined from 25 percent in1997 to 21 percent in 2000, according to the report. For 10th graders, the decline was from 18 percent in 1997 to 14 percent in 2000. And eighth graders saw a decline from a peak of 10 percent in 1996 to 7 percent in 2000.
While the report itself does not link settlement-funded anti-tobacco programs to the reported decline in youth smoking, Gregoire said the statistics are a strong indicator that those programs are having a positive impact.
The Master Settlement Agreement between the states and the tobacco compnaies contained numerous provisions designed to reduce youth smoking. Among other things, it:
- Barred participating manufacturers from targeting youth in their advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes;
- Banned the use of cartoon figures, such as Joe Camel;
- Banned billboard advertising of cigarettes;
- Prohibited distribution of cigarette brand name merchandise and limited brand name sponsorships.
The settlement also required participating manufacturers to pay the states billions of dollars to enable them to upgrade their own anti-tobacco programs. Studies by the Center for Disease Control and others have shown that comprehensive tobacco education and control programs are effective in reducing youth smoking.
Gregoire said comprehensive programs implemented in this state are working, and she urged the Legislature to continue to provide adequate funding for those programs.
The new federal report provided additional indicators that the overall well-being of America's children is improving.