New report shows Texas is lagging in tobacco prevention, Amarillo surging ahead

New report shows Texas is lagging in tobacco prevention, Amarillo surging ahead

According to a new report released Thursday by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, a majority of US cities are falling behind in preventative measures against cancer.

The report called How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality states Texas is falling behind in tobacco prevention. It reports that Texas has had little to no tax increase in the past 6 years, no smoke free law, and spending below the Center for Disease Control and Preventionâ??s funding level recommendation.

Representative John Smithee Of Amarillo said the topic of making a state wide smoke free policy has come up, but has been shut down in the last couple of sessions.

â??So far that measure has failed. Itâ??s failed in the sessions itâ??s been brought up,â?? Smithee said.

Smithee said itâ??s not just Texas thatâ??s shutting down the smoke free idea. He said Amarillo has had multiple elections and residents have voted off the idea as well.

â??In all these instances, itâ??s failed locally. Thereâ??s been efforts. If you live in Amarillo, we donâ??t have that smoking ban,â?? Smithee said.

Smithee said several states, including Texas, were part of a lawsuit against tobacco companies for misrepresentation. He said the lawsuit resulted in a large settlement to the state which he said is being used for education about smoking.

â??A good part of it was used to education programs to prevent the usage of tobacco use,â?? Smithee said.

When asked why the state doesn't spend on preventative programs at the CDC recommended level, Smithee said the state puts in a significant amount for tobacco prevention programs, but the money also has to go to other state departments.

â??Itâ??s easy to make a recommendation because they donâ??t have to pay. We donâ??t have a lot of extra money to work with. Every dollar we put into education, we take money out of school systems, prison systems, or highway funds,â?? Smithee said.

American Cancer Societyâ??s Jason McCoy said Tobacco Free Amarillo was started as a result of that 2001 tobacco settlement. He said the city contributes thousands to preventative programs like Tobacco Free Amarillo.

â??$500,000 is spent each year to combat tobacco usage and prevention. I think the media campaigns are working very well,â?? McCoy said.

Smithee said they need to make sure these preventative programs are working before taking or adding money to tobacco prevention. The American Cancer Society, however, said lower tobacco usage is what theyâ??re seeing.

â??Since 2001, weâ??ve seen an 80% decrease in 6th graders smoking. 7th graders are down 78%, and 8th graders are down 46%,â?? McCoy said.

McCoy said these media campaigns, surveys, and education programs are key to continue lowering the smoking usage numbers.

â??If we can keep targeting youth with the right information, we can combat people from smoking their entire life,â?? McCoy said.