Alabama ranks 49th in the country in funding programs that prevent youth from smoking and help smokers quit. That’s according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations. The report shows that if Alabama reduced its high school smoking rate from the current 18 percent to 7.5 percent, it would prevent more than 130,000 kids from becoming adult smokers, saving more than 47,000 lives and $2.3 billion in future health care costs. Tobacco claims about 8,600 lives in Alabama each year and costs the state $1.9 billion in health care bills. Alabama will spend $362,000 this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, the state will collect $227.5 million this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes but will spend only 0.2 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs, and Tobacco companies spend $196.9 million per year to market their products in Alabama, that’s 544 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.