S.C. ends funding for anti-smoking

Anti-smoking advocates fear more teenagers will begin the habit in South Carolina and fewer adults will quit now that prevention programs are getting no state money.

For the past two years, South Carolina has spent $2 million on smoking cessation and prevention. At least a half-dozen states have reduced funding for such programs in the economic downturn, but South Carolina was the only one to eliminate it this year.

South Carolina and Connecticut are the only two states that spend nothing on prevention, according to the national Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Before getting the money in 2006-07, S.C. spent nothing for several years.

Since 1999, the youth smoking rate in South Carolina has dropped by half, from 36 percent to 18 percent. The teen movement Rage Against the Haze has helped teens educate their peers on the dangers of tobacco, according to anti-smoking groups.

Now the program is unfunded and is using leftover money on limited training sessions and events.

For the 22 percent of South Carolina's adults who already smoke, the state has continued its 800-number tobacco quit line with federal money.