A national anti-tobacco group ranks Texas near the bottom for funding anti-tobacco programs and says the money for those programs is being spent elsewhere.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids showed Texas ranks 41st in the nation in terms of spending on tobacco prevention programs. Spokesman Danny McGoldrick said the state gets $1.8 billion in tobacco revenue from tobacco settlement funds and tobacco taxes.
Based on that amount, the Centers for Disease Control says Texas should spend $266.3 million on tobacco prevention programs.
The state is spending only $6.5 million this fiscal year.
"We lose over 24,000 Texans every year to an early death from tobacco use," McGoldrick said.
He said what's worse, tobacco prevention programs save more money than they cost.
"We're really missing a huge opportunity in Texas to improve health, save lives, but also save healthcare dollars because these programs pay for themselves," McGoldrick said.
A Texas lawmaker said there is a good reason Texas has not spent more money to keep people from using tobacco. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a democrat from San Antonio, said that money is spent on things like roads, bridges and textbooks.
"I'm not surprised that Texas ranks so low," Van de Putte said.
She said cash-strapped states like Texas have spent that money on items other than healthcare. She agrees that prevention pays dividends.
"We know that for every dollar that you spend on prevention and intervention to get people to quit smoking that you save about $5," Van de Putte said.
But she said Texas usually ranks near the bottom in terms of healthcare funding.
"They're not saving any money by not funding tobacco prevention,” McGoldrick said. “In fact, you're going to end up spending more dollars that way."
However, while the state budget is not as tight as it was two years ago, lawmakers may find it difficult to fund anti-tobacco programs when water and education issues loom.
One positive note, the $6.5 million Texas is spending this year on tobacco prevention programs is a million dollars more than what was spent last fiscal year.