COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Despite a half century of government warnings, nearly one in four Ohioans still smoke.
In fact, National Health Surveys found 23.3 percent of Ohio residents still smoked in 2012, a rate that was just 5.4 percent lower than it was in 1984, the first year Ohio tracked smoking numbers. During the same time, the nationwide rate dropped more than 12 percent.
Anti-smoking advocates say the problem is that Ohio isn't funding prevention like it used to.
"We rank 47th in the country with funding of these programs that work," said Jeff Stevens with the American Cancer Society in Ohio.
The programs help people quit smoking and prevent children from starting.
Stevens says tobacco products end up costing Ohio about $4.5 billion in health care costs. $1.5 billion of that goes directly to those on Medicaid. He adds that tobacco companies are dumping about $1.5 million a day into the state for marketing.
"If we're going to become economically competitive, we can't have a health metric of tobacco use that we have," Stevens said.
Lawmakers restored about $2 million for tobacco prevention in the last budget, but that's a far cry from the $25 million to $30 million the state spent before the recession. Ohio used money from the program to pay for other programs during a time of strained budgets.
The Centers for Disease Control says smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, with about 443,000 Americans dying every year.
(Photo courtesy Getty Images)
(The Associated Press contributed to this story)