Colorado ranks 11th in the nation in funding programs to keep youths from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Colorado ranks 11th in the nation in funding programs to keep youths from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The state's investment of more than $21 million in 2015 may seem like a lot of money, said Cindy Liverance, deputy director of the American Lung Association, but it's a drop in the bucket compared with the $139 million tobacco companies spend promoting their products in Colorado each year.

"Until you really take a look at that," she said, "which means tobacco companies are spending $6 to promote tobacco use for every $1 Colorado is spending to prevent it."

According to the report, Colorado will collect more than $285 million this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will allocate only 7.7 percent to keeping youths from using tobacco, which remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.

The report found that more than 3,400 youths become smokers each year in Colorado, and marketing efforts such as candy and fruit-flavored tobacco products and ads in Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated underline the need for strong education programs. Since the landmark tobacco settlement did not require states to use funds for prevention, Liverance said, the money ends up filling other budget gaps.

"There are a lot of needs in our state, and I can understand that these needs need to be filled," she said. "But doing it with the tobacco funding isn't going to solve the tobacco problem we have in our state."

Liverance said the Colorado Tobacco Free Alliance will be pressing the Legislature in the next session to fully fund prevention programs, raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, and increase the state's cigarette tax, which ranks among the lowest in the nation.

The report is online at tfk.org/statereport.