On March 24th, the Senate HHS budget chairman released the upper chamber's proposed categorical allocations for tobacco control for FY 2011-12, and they appear consistent with our recommendations and CDC Guidelines.
Additionally, some language affords the Department of Health the authority to employ nicotine replacement therapy and other FDA-approved treatments for cessation, a measure strongly supported by public health groups such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society.
We're still awaiting the House's specific plan. In any event, this is a positive sign as the budget reconcilation process approaches. Advocates should thank the members of the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Committee, while also continuing to urge their counterparts in the House to follow the Senate's lead on this critical public health issue.
In 2006, voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4, an act that added a provision to the Florida Constitution which guarantees that Florida spends part of the money it receives from the tobacco settlement on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
The amendment also requires the state to spend this money in accordance with CDC Best Practices recommendations, ensuring that these funds are allocated to effective evidence-based programs to reduce tobacco use.
Voters knew what they were doing. Since 2007, the program has helped Florida:
While we have had some great success, there is still work to do. Every year tobacco uses results in more than 28,000 deaths across Florida. Tobacco also annually costs Floridians $6.32 billion, including $1.2 billion in Medicaid payments, hitting Florida households with a $582 hidden tax.
Threats to the program
Now some legislators are hinting at cutting funding for the program, even though it's part of the Florida Constitution. Others would take money from proven youth and community-based interventions recommended by the CDC and direct it toward special interests instead. Some even argue that voters didn't know what they were voting for in 2006.
Voters knew exactly what they were voting for. They wanted to address the #1 cause of preventable death in Florida. They wanted to keep future generations of kids from suffering from the many diseases tobacco use causes. And they knew that preventing tobacco-related disease and death would help the state's fiscal AND physical health.
Don't let shortsighted legislators overturn the will of the people. Write to your legislator and tell them to stand firm against any attempts to defund Florida's highly successful tobacco prevention program.