North Carolina’s $49 million investment in tobacco reduction programs led to substantial health improvements from 2006-2009, UNC evaluation finds

Thursday, January 28, 2010 — A comprehensive evaluation of North Carolina’s three major tobacco reduction programs from 2006-2009 concludes that they resulted in substantial reductions in tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure for youth, young adults and adults across the state. The program has also resulted in model policies the rest of the nation may now follow.

A comprehensive evaluation of North Carolina’s three major tobacco reduction programs from 2006-2009 concludes that they resulted in substantial reductions in tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure for youth, young adults and adults across the state. The program has also resulted in model policies the rest of the nation may now follow.

One striking example cited in the report by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers: North Carolina leads the nation in the number of colleges and universities that have adopted tobacco-free campus policies.

“It is clear that North Carolina’s investment in its comprehensive tobacco programs, funded by the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, has resulted in thousands of healthier and longer lives and tens of millions of dollars in health care costs saved,” said Adam Goldstein, M.D., M.P.H., director of UNC’s Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program (TPEP), which prepared the evaluation.

TPEP previously released evaluations of the HWTF programs from 2003-2006. The second evaluation covers the period 2006-2009, during which the HWTF spent $49 million on its three major programs: the Teen Initiative, the Tobacco-Free Colleges Initiative and QuitlineNC, a call-in telephone support service for people trying to quit tobacco use.

Other major findings of the three-year evaluation include:

  • Awareness among youths of the HWTF’s “TRU” (Tobacco. Reality. Unfiltered.) ad campaign increased from less than 50 percent to more than 80 percent.
  • More than 30 colleges, universities and community colleges have adopted tobacco-free campus policies, which provide protection from secondhand smoke to more than 130,000 people a year.
  • More than 10,000 calls have been made to the N.C. Tobacco Quitline from every county in the state since that program launched in 2005.

The most serious threat to the tobacco programs in the next two years identified in the evaluation is a potential loss of program funding. The report recommends that the state increase funding by $7 million a year.

“Currently North Carolina invests only 17 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend for tobacco control funding,” said Leah Ranney, Ph.D., associate director of TPEP. “Greater investment would improve programs, save more lives and positively impact North Carolinians in every county.”

Other recommendations of the report include expanding the program to cover all at risk North Carolina adults, supporting additional policy measures aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and exposure to secondhand smoke and maintaining continuous media-based activities to support the Tobacco Initiative programs.

The N.C. General Assembly created the HWTF in 2001 with 25 percent of the state’s share of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. HWTF launched the Teen Initiative in 2003, began funding components of QuitlineNC in 2005, and expanded to the College initiative in 2006. HWTF completed its second three year program funding cycle in 2006-2009.

A copy of the report is available at http://www.tpep.unc.edu/index.htm.

NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund Web site: http://www.healthwellnc.com/ 

Media contact: Tom Hughes, (919) 966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu

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