Sep. 7 2001
Washington, DC — Results of Vermont's 2001 Youth Risk Behavior Survey released this week add to the growing evidence that aggressive public health measures, including cigarette price increases and comprehensive tobacco prevention programs, are working to reduce youth tobacco use. Vermont's results show that smoking rates among the state's eight graders have been cut in half since 1997, declining to 13 percent in 2001 from 22 percent in 1999 and 26 percent in 1997. Among all students surveyed, in grades 8 through 12, smoking rates have declined to 22 percent in 2001 from 31 percent in 1999 and 36 percent in 1997 — a drop of nearly 39 percent in four years.
Vermont's youth smoking rates clearly have been affected both by cigarette price increases prompted by the 1998 state tobacco settlement and the implementation of the state's comprehensive tobacco prevention program, which is funded with tobacco settlement dollars. The state's results are among the most impressive in the nation and show that cigarette price increases and comprehensive prevention programs are proven measures that reduce smoking, save money and save lives.
Despite this early success, Vermont legislators earlier this year cut funding for the state's prevention program from $6.5 million in FY 2001 to $5.5 million in FY 2002, threatening the program's continued effectiveness. The legislative action to reduce tobacco prevention funding is inexcusable in light of this new and powerful evidence that Vermont's program is working to reduce teen smoking. Vermont's progress so far could be quickly reversed without proper funding support from the legislature.
Other states have learned from such legislative mistakes. California's pioneering tobacco prevention program had some early successes cut short by the California Legislature's shortsighted budget cutting. The legislature has since restored the program, and numerous studies have shown large reductions in California tobacco consumption for both teens and adults as well as thousands of lives saved by reducing rates of heart disease and lung and bronchial cancer.
Vermont's legislators should do the right thing and restore full funding toVermont's tobacco prevention program. And all legislators across the country should heed the success of Vermont and other states that have reduced youth smoking rates and protect their kids by implementing comprehensive tobacco prevention programs and increasing cigarette excise taxes.