A new report ranks Arizona 18th in the country for the amount it spends on tobacco prevention and cessation.
It says Arizona spends $15.2 million a year, but should spend closer to $68 million a year to meet recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
ASHLine is a state-funded resource for Arizonans who wish to quit tobacco, and director Stephen Michael acknowledges the disparity in funding vs. the recommendation.
"We’re lucky that the health department funds us at a level where we can meet the need of about 3 percent of smokers every year, but the CDC recommends that we get funding for 6 to 8 percent every year," he said.
There are only a couple of states that meet the CDC recommendation, Michael says, but if Arizona had more funding, it could easily jump to second or third place in the national ranking.
Michael says with more money, the ASHLine could increase staff and support more people who wish to quit using tobacco.
The program is funded with tobacco taxes collected in Arizona, which are also used to pay for health care costs for the poorer residents. Michael says preventing and stopping tobacco use would also save the state money on health care.
“It goes to AHCCCS (the state's Medicaid program) to deal with health care costs, but it would be nice if more was going to prevention and cessation since the people who use these products really need those services to get off them and keep people from starting," he said.