Oct. 13 1999
North Arlington, NJ - New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman received the Mike Synar Memorial Public Service Award at a ceremony at North Arlington Middle School today in honor of her leadership and commitment to protecting the state’s children from tobacco and for the standard she has set for the nation. The Synar Award, presented by the Washington, DC-based CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS in conjunction with its partner, New Jersey Breathes – the state’s leading tobacco control organization, is given to outstanding leaders who have demonstrated a special commitment to protecting the public’s health from the deadly effects of tobacco. Governor Whitman provided the critical early leadership to enable New Jersey to become a nationwide leader in the effort to reduce tobacco use, particularly among children. After the November 1998 multi-state settlement with tobacco companies, Governor Whitman came out publicly on behalf of spending 20 percent of her state’s first settlement payment on tobacco prevention. During the this year’s legislative session, the Governor worked with lawmakers and public health advocates on behalf of that goal, ultimately emerging with $18.8 million of the state’s initial $92.8 million payment earmarked in the state budget for tobacco control – the first step in the state’s long-term commitment to reducing the toll of tobacco in New Jersey. In July, Governor Whitman signed the budget, which included money for a comprehensive tobacco prevention program that would provide school- and community-based programs, cessation initiatives, counter-marketing and evaluation. Because of the Governor’s actions, the New Jersey Department of Health can launch the program on July 1, 2000, and start saving lives and money. “I am deeply honored to receive the Mike Synar Award,” said Governor Whitman. “Mike’s crusade against tobacco continues to inspire all of us who are fighting the good fight against smoking, particularly among our young people. I accept this award on behalf of all legislators, advocates and citizens who have joined with me in our campaign against tobacco.” “We commend Governor Whitman for her efforts to protect New Jersey’s kids from tobacco,” said CAMPAIGN President Bill Novelli. “Under her leadership, New Jersey has taken the important first steps to keep its promise to its children to use the settlement funds to develop an effective program to prevent the next generation from becoming addicted to tobacco. Governor Whitman has set an example and a standard for the country.” Governor Whitman’s work on behalf of establishing tobacco prevention programs followed her critical support to discourage smoking by doubling the tax on cigarettes in 1997. "Governor Whitman's efforts changed the public perception of tobacco use. What was once a low priority issue is now a top health threat facing New Jersey," said Larry Downs, Director of New Jersey Breathes. The late Mike Synar, for whom the award was named, was a U.S. Congressman who represented Oklahoma from 1979 to 1994. Long before others took on Big Tobacco, Synar was a leader in the fight against tobacco, and demonstrated great personal integrity as a member of Congress. Governor Whitman, the fourth Synar Award recipient, received the honor this morning. With this prestigious award, she joins an exclusive group of previous recipients that include President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, the late Florida Governor Lawton Chiles, and Washington Governor Gary Locke.