Without prevention programs against tobacco smoking at schools, teenagers like Wells are easy pray for Big Tobacco. According to government sources, each day more than 3,800 minors smoke for the first time, and more than 1,000 become addicted for life.
"I never saw a prevention class in my school," Wells said, with disappointment.
In 1998, the tobacco industry agreed on a monetary settlement with the states after prosecutors successfully proved this industry's disingenuous portrayal of their product in the market. At the height of the trial, Dr. Victor De Noble, former researcher at Philip Morris, became a key witness to unveil his former employer's unlawful activities. In the end, the big three, Phillip Morris, RJ Reynolds and Lorillard, agreed to repay the states $246 billion over 25 years because states had absorbed massive bills from cancer patients and other people affected with illnesses related to tobacco smoking.
This year, states are expected to collect $25.6 billion in revenue from tobacco taxes and the tobacco settlement. Nonetheless, only $456.7 million (1.8 %) will be allocated in youth prevention and cessation programs. That figure is about half of what states spent during the first decade of the agreement. To make things worse, states cut down another $61.2 million from prevention programs last year.