Oct. 19 2001
Tallahasee, FL — As the Florida Legislature prepares to meet in special session to address a budget deficit, a coalition of public health groups has launched an advertising campaign urging Governor Jeb Bush and legislators not to make any more cuts to Florida's highly successful tobacco control program. (View the ad, 994k pdf) The ads, which are running in newspapers and on radio stations across Florida, are sponsored by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association of Florida, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Public health groups also have launched a special web site, www.SaveTruth.org, that gives supporters of Florida's program, a component of which is known as "truth," the opportunity to contact Governor Bush and lawmakers to urge them not to cut the program further.
In the first two years of its tobacco control program, which was launched in 1998, Florida has reduced smoking rates by 47 percent among middle school students and 30 percent among high school students, according to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). This decline represents nearly 75,000 fewer Florida youth smokers and 16,376 fewer premature deaths linked to smoking, according to FDOH. The new Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS) 2001 should be released any day.
Despite this success, the Legislature and the Governor have cut funding for tobacco prevention by 47 percent, from $70 million to $37.3 million, since the program began. This includes a cut of $6.8 million already this year. As a result, Florida now spends only 47 percent of the minimum amount the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for an effective, comprehensive tobacco prevention program.
Florida will receive more than $700 million from the tobacco settlement this year, so it is spending less than six percent of its settlement proceeds on tobacco prevention.
The print ad features a photograph of five teenagers with the headline, "Tobacco prevention saved 50,000 of us. Will Florida's leaders save tobacco prevention?" It makes three key points:
Florida's tobacco control program is highly successful and has been a model for other states.
The program has been cut too much already, and further cuts would likely destroy it. The result would be more kids smoking and fewer lives saved.
The program is fiscally responsible because it is reducing the $4.6 billion a year Florida taxpayers pay to treat tobacco-caused disease. And it hasn't cost Florida taxpayers a penny because it is funded entirely with money from Florida's tobacco settlement.
"Even as Florida's leaders make touch choices to balance the budget, tobacco prevention remains a smart investment," the ad states.
The ad also quotes a September 25, 2001, letter from Governor Bush to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in which he states that Florida's program "has demonstrated great success at deterring teens from becoming addicted to tobacco."
Governor Bush's letter also states, "These critically important efforts to protect youth from the addictive hazards of tobacco remain among my top priorities."
View the complete Bush letter.