Vermont Takes Irresponsible Step to Cut Tobacco Prevention Funding

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Mar. 16 2001

Washington, DC — The Vermont House Appropriations Committee has acted with disregard for the health of Vermont's citizens by voting to severely cut funding for the state's tobacco prevention program. It is especially irresponsible of them to take this action without public hearing or debate. The committee's plan would severely undermine Vermont's tobacco prevention program by reducing funding by $1.15 million and allowing the remaining funds to be used for other purposes. The plan breaks the promise to use Vermont's tobacco settlement money for tobacco prevention.

Vermont is currently one of only 17 states that have made substantial commitments to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that Vermont spend between $7.91 million and $15.94 million on a tobacco-specific prevention program, and the state's actual annual spending is $6.65 million. The committee's proposal would substantially reduce the scope and effectiveness of Vermont's program. As a result, more kids would start smoking, more lives would be lost to tobacco-related disease, and Vermont's taxpayers would end up paying more to treat tobacco-related illnesses.

Youth smoking is a pediatric epidemic in Vermont. Currently, 33.4 percent of high school students in Vermont smoke. Each year in Vermont, 2,000 kids become daily smokers and the state spends $140 million on public and private health care expenditures directly related to tobacco use.

Vermont 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. 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 Vermont's House of Representatives to do the right thing and restore Vermont'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 Vermont.

 

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