Apr. 23 2001
Washington, DC — Success should be rewarded, not punished. Yet the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee did the opposite last week in irresponsibly voting to cut its pioneering and highly successful tobacco prevention program by $7.5 million. The proposed cut represents an 18 percent reduction in FY 2002 funding for the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, which was cut by a similar amount in last year's budget. This cut would significantly harm Massachusetts' efforts to prevent kids from starting to smoke, help current smokers to quit and reduce tobacco-related health care expenditures paid by all of the commonwealth's taxpayers.
Massachusetts has one of the nation's first and most successful tobacco prevention programs. Since the start of its program in 1993, tobacco consumption has fallen at four times the rate of the rest of the country, and smoking among high school students has declined by 15 percent. Studies have shown that Massachusetts is saving $85 million a year in smoking-related health care costs.
Despite these successes, more needs to be done. Youth smoking remains a pediatric epidemic in Massachusetts. About 30 percent of high school students smoke, and 24,000 kids become daily smokers every year in the commonwealth. The Massachusetts legislature needs to build on the success of its program, not cut it back.
We call on the Massachusetts House of Representatives to do the right thing and restore funding for tobacco prevention. Failure to reverse this proposal would be a victory for the tobacco companies, and a defeat for the kids and taxpayers of Massachusetts.