New Radio Ad Urges Gov. Bush to Veto Proposed Cuts to Tobacco Prevention Funding

Ad Points Out Tobacco Industry has Contributed $790,000 to Florida Politicians and Political Parties Since 1997

Oct. 29 2001

Washington, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids today launched a new radio advertisement calling on Florida Governor Jeb Bush to veto proposed cuts in funding for Florida's highly successful tobacco prevention program. The ad is running on radio stations in Tallahassee and throughout Florida.

The ad states, "Tobacco prevention works. It saves kids' lives. It saves taxpayers' money. Now we need Governor Bush to save tobacco prevention." It calls on Governor Bush to "protect our kids, not Big Tobacco."

The ad points also out that the tobacco industry has contributed more than $790,000 to Florida politicians and political parties since 1997. "Now Big Tobacco is getting a big payback," the ad says.

The Florida House and Senate last week passed a budget plan that cuts funding for tobacco prevention by at least $12.5 million out of a current budget of $37.3 million (budget documents indicate the cut may be as large as $14.5 million). The ad points out that while the entire Florida budget of $48 billion is being cut by less than two percent, the tobacco prevention program would be cut by nearly 40 percent.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew L. Myers also has written to Governor Bush urging him to use his line-item veto authority to restore funding for Florida's tobacco prevention program. The letter reminds Bush that he called for "shared sacrifice" in addressing Florida's budget crisis and that he stated in a recent letter to the Campaign that "these critically important efforts to protect youth from the addictive hazards of tobacco remain among my top priorities" (Governor Bush's letter can be viewed on the Internet at http://tfktakeaction.policy.net/florida/resources/bushltr.vtml).

"This level of cuts to tobacco prevention goes well beyond the ‘shared sacrifices' you describe and will, for all practical purposes, kill one of the most successful youth-focused public health programs ever created. It is up to you whether this program survives," Myers wrote to Governor Bush.

Since starting its tobacco prevention program in 1998, Florida has reduced youth smoking rates by 47 percent among middle school students and 30 percent among high school students. This decline represents nearly 75,000 fewer Florida youth smokers and more than 24,000 fewer premature smoking deaths linked to smoking. Despite this success, the program's budget has been cut by 47 percent even before the cuts now being considered.

In addition to the new ad and letter, more than 3,000 Florida residents have contacted Governor Bush and Florida lawmakers through a special web site, www.savetruth.org, to urge that they oppose further cuts to tobacco prevention. The web site is continuing to generate faxes to the Governor and lawmakers.

The texts of the radio ad and Myers letter to Governor Bush are attached.

Text of Radio Ad

They're at it again. Big tobacco gave over $790,000 to Florida politicians. Now Big Tobacco is getting a big payback.

The Legislature just voted to slash Florida's tobacco prevention program – even though it's saved 75,000 kids from addiction, disease and death. Now it's up to Governor Bush to veto their decision and save tobacco prevention.

Times are tough, and Florida must balance its budget. But while the entire budget is being cut by less than 2 percent, the Legislature wants to cut tobacco prevention by nearly 40 percent - destroying the program.

Our kids will pay the price, and so will taxpayers. Because tobacco prevention saves us millions each year in smoking-related health costs.

Tobacco prevention works. It saves kids' lives. It saves taxpayers' money. Now, we need Governor Bush to save tobacco prevention.

Call 850-488-7146. Tell Governor Bush to protect our kids, not big tobacco. That's 850-488-7146.

Paid for by Tobacco Free Kids.

End transcript.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Letter from Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, to Florida Governor Jeb Bush sent October 26, 2001

Dear Governor Bush:

Today we are calling on you to exercise your line item veto authority to restore funding for Florida's nationally recognized tobacco prevention program. No action you take will have a greater impact on the long-term health of Florida's citizens.

When we received your letter of September 25, 2001 announcing and promising your "avid" support for Florida's model tobacco prevention program, we were confident we could count on you to protect the program that was saving the lives of thousands of Florida's kids. Thus, we were taken back when you didn't did speak out against a budget bill that will destroy the program by cutting one-third of its budget.

We know that given Florida's current fiscal situation, many programs will have to -- in your words -- make "shared sacrifices." But while the entire budget is being cut by less than two percent, funding for tobacco prevention would be cut by 33 percent. This level of cuts to tobacco prevention goes well beyond the "shared sacrifices" you describe and will, for all practical purposes, kill one of the most successful youth-focused public health programs ever created. It is up to you whether this program survives.

In your letter you said protecting youth "from the addictive hazards of tobacco" remains among your "top priorities." This program has already been cut each of the last three years. The new proposed budget cuts are inconsistent with your pledge to Florida's children. The American Lung Association of Florida has said that if the proposed cut stands, "The battle will be over. Children will have lost and Big Tobacco will have won."

Your letter last June to a coalition of public health groups decried "the damage done to our society, not to mention our state's finances, by tobacco use." Florida's Department of Health recently said that the state's program has already saved 75,000 kids from tobacco's cycle of addiction, disease and death. The department's former secretary has said the program has already saved the state more than $1 billion in health care expenses.

What will these new budget cuts do? Results published by your administration this week show that previous cuts to Florida's tobacco prevention program are already having harmful consequences. Full funding of the program generated dramatic declines in tobacco use among middle school students. However, after the budget cuts which have already taken place, the decline halted and smoking among vulnerable 6th to 8th graders even shows signs of increasing.

This week, your administration's own drug czar cautioned that cuts to this program, and the increases in smoking that will result, will also lead to a higher incidence of drug use among youth.

For the sake of Florida's children, we hope you will act to repair the chasm between your words and your deeds by using your line-item veto to restore funding for tobacco prevention.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Matthew L. Myers

End text of letter

 

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