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Less Smoking Affects Childhood Services

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The decline in California smoking rates is affecting the state’s early childhood services, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

First 5 California, the state’s early childhood services, are mostly funded by cigarette and other tobacco product taxes. In 1998, voters passed Proposition 10, which levied a tobacco tax and dedicated the money to programs that would help families with young children. It was not meant to be a permanent solution for funding, however. First 5 programs around the state are trimming budgets and cutting back programs now that the funding is decreasing.

Last year, Californians passed Proposition 31, which banned the sale of flavored tobacco products.

“We all expect revenues to go down, the question is what will be the magnitude,” said Michael Ong, chair of the state’s Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee.

First 5 cuts differ among counties—some counties rely more heavily on tobacco tax funds than others, and each county has made cuts in ways they see fit, for example, cutting programs supporting foster children and dental health and support for family shelters.

The group funds a broad number of programs in partnership with nonprofits, local hospitals, clinics and county health and education offices. Some of the programs they fund include children’s mobile immunization clinics, dental services, developmental screenings, family case management, parenting classes and home visits from a nurse for first-time mothers. Programs vary by county.

First 5 expects to receive about 30 percent less funding from tobacco taxes by 2026 compared to 2021. Projections for this year’s budget had First 5 receiving about $348 million from tobacco taxes. After the flavor ban was passed, the new budget had the organization receiving about $310 million, and by 2026, projections show a decrease to $280 million.

From 1999 to 2000, the organization received $690 million from tobacco taxes.

Statewide, tobacco taxes account for 73 percent of First 5’s annual budget, but this varies by county—First 5 distributes funds based on an equation that takes into account birth rate.

Ong stated that ideally, the group would source funding from elsewhere. “But that’s a pretty tall order for county governments,” he said. 

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