Missouri Struggles to Curb Teen Smoking
It's perfectly legal for college students to sit at a bar and smoke. But teen smoking is a problem that states have been battling for years. Critics say when it comes to money, Missouri isn't battling as hard as other states.
In fact, according to one county health official, Missouri ranks last in the U.S. Missouri budgets $2 million for anti-tobacco purposes. The Centers for Disease Control recommends the state spend $33 million.
One program Missouri funds is the "We Card" program. It's supposed to prevent minors from buying tobacco products. Some officials are not pleased with the results from this campaign.
"We're starting to see this program is slipping. A number of places have been witnessed selling cigarettes to minors," Public Health Planner Linda Cooperstock said.
Although Cooperstock said some convenience store operators aren't doing their job, some go an extra step to insure cigarettes stay out of minors' hands.
"Well, if they come up and they're acting kinda like shy or shaky or whatever, we'll card them. If they don't look like 25 we'll card them. I look for wrinkles around the eyes and how they present themselves," said gas station employee Sean Barnhart.
Although programs like "We Card" exist, teens are still getting their hands on cigarettes and with state funding being the lowest in the nation, the Columbia-Boone County Health Department is looking for other ways to prevent teen smoking. The department has applied for a grant to supplement the money it has to start new programs.
Cooperstock said other states which have increased funds to fight teen smoking have seen success, but with Missouri's lack of funds, the smoking rate is plateauing.
Cooperstock said teens are actually more susceptible to the effects of nicotine, but, they are less likely to feel those effects. That's why she believes the state should budget more to try and prevent teen smoking.