Jan. 18 2001
Washington, DC — We are deeply disappointed that Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, who has made his state one of the nation's leaders in tobacco prevention, is now proposing to severely cut funding for the state's tobacco prevention program. If funding for tobacco prevention is cut by one-third, as the governor proposes, the state will be breaking its promise to use Maryland's tobacco settlement money for tobacco prevention. Maryland is currently one of only a handful of states that is funding tobacco prevention at approximately the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for an effective, comprehensive program. Gov. Glendening's proposal would substantially reduce the scope and effectiveness of Maryland's program. As a result, more kids would start smoking, more lives would be lost to tobacco-related disease, and Maryland's taxpayers would end up paying more to treat tobacco-related illnesses.
Youth smoking is a pediatric epidemic in Maryland. Currently, 28.6 percent of 12th grade students in Maryland smoke. Each year in Maryland, 19,000 kids become daily smokers and the state spends $1.3 billion on public and private health care expenditures directly related to tobacco use. Nationally, about 3,000 kids a day become addicted to tobacco, one-third of whom will die prematurely, and more than 400,000 Americans die each year from tobacco-related disease.
Maryland needs a comprehensive tobacco prevention program, and we call upon legislators to pay heed to the growing body of evidence that prevention programs are saving lives in the states that have enacted them. Massachusetts has cut its smoking rate among high school students by 15 percent since 1995. Florida, which began its program in 1998, has cut smoking by 40 percent among middle school students, and by 18 percent among high school students. Since 1988, tobacco consumption in California has declined by 50 percent compared to 30 percent for the country as a whole. Two recent studies show that California's pioneering prevention program is not only reducing tobacco consumption, but also saving lives by reducing rates of heart disease and lung and bronchial cancer.
We call on Gov. Glendening and Maryland's Legislature to do the right thing and enact a budget that restores Maryland's commitment to tobacco prevention. Failure to reverse this proposal would be a victory for the tobacco companies, and a defeat for the kids and families of Maryland.