When it comes to preventing tobacco use, Pennsylvania just doesn’t make the grade.
The American Lung Association’s recent State of Tobacco Control report gave the state an “F” in both tobacco prevention spending and cessation of tobacco use.
Pennsylvania spends less than 50 percent of what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends it spend on tobacco prevention, said Deborah Brown, CEO of ALA of the Mid-Atlantic.
The CDC recommends Pennsylvania spend $155.5 million on prevention and cessation, she said.
Currently, the commonwealth only spends about $14.7 million, she said.
Lack of funding can cause a decrease in smoking prevention programs available, Brown said.
She said the association wants to make sure young people don’t start smoking, and that those who already smoke can quit.
Decreases in funding can make it difficult for smokers trying to kick the habit, said Suzanne Zeman, coordinator of educational services at University Health Services.
But UHS currently offers a smoking cessation program to students, she said.
“Having the support and really connecting to different resources that are available to [smokers] is extremely important,” she said.
But some smokers said cessation programs don’t appeal to them.
“I wouldn’t be interested,” said smoker Jared McFarland, who was visiting State College on Tuesday.
But if free or discounted nicotine patches or pills were available, it would be a different story, said McFarland, of Harrisburg.
In 2007, 72 percent of Penn State students were non-smokers, Zeman said.
UHS hasn’t conducted any research on smoking among the student population since then.
But Zeman said she believes the number of Penn State students who smoke is continually increasing.
Fewer tobacco prevention programs can be a nationwide problem, Brown said. Even as the number of smokers around the country increases, the amount of funding spent on tobacco prevention is continually decreasing, Brown said.
This past year alone, funding from the federal government for tobacco cessation and prevention programs has decreased by nearly 45 percent, she said.
In the past, Pennsylvania has made significant investments toward tobacco prevention, but it may have been reduced because of the economy, State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, said.
“We have done well, but economic realities have prevented us from further spending,” Corman said.