Nov. 13 2001
Columbus, OH — A coalition of public health groups has launched a new web site — www.protectohiokids.org — and a print and radio advertising campaign urging Ohio leaders not to cut funding for the state's tobacco prevention program.
View Ohio Print Ad (Warning: large pdf file, 3.5MB)
Last year, Ohio Governor Bob Taft and the Legislature enacted a law that allocated 10 percent of Ohio's tobacco settlement for tobacco prevention and established a Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation. Now, Governor Taft has proposed taking $100 million from the fund next year and the House has voted to take $240 million over the next two years from the fund and use the money to address Ohio's budget crisis. The Senate is developing its proposal.
The ad urges Governor Taft and the Legislature to "keep your promise to the children of Ohio." If prevention funding is cut, "Our kids will pay the price, and so will taxpayers. Because tobacco-related illness costs Ohio $3.4 billion a year, while tobacco prevention costs us nothing — it's completely funded by the tobacco settlement." The ads are running in newspapers and on radio stations across Ohio.
The new web site, www.ProtectOhiokids.org, gives Ohio residents the opportunity to send their leaders a letter opposing a raid on tobacco prevention funds.
Both the ads and the web site are sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Coalition for a Healthier Ohio, whose members include Tobacco-Free Ohio, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association of Ohio, Ohio Hospital Association, and the Ohio State Medical Association.
"Even as Ohio's leaders make tough choices to balance the budget, tobacco prevention remains one of the smartest investments we can make," said Tracy E. Sabetta, project director of Tobacco-Free Ohio. "Our tobacco prevention program will keep Ohio kids from tobacco addiction, reduce the number of tobacco-caused deaths, and save taxpayers millions of dollars in health care costs. It's penny-wise and pound-foolish to cut tobacco prevention."
Public health advocates are asking Ohio legislators to balance the budget the right way by passing a 50-cent increase in the state's cigarette tax. Such a plan would raise $400 million in revenue, reduce smoking, and curb health costs from smoking. A recent poll shows strong public support for this plan.
Approximately 33 percent of Ohio's high school students smoke and more than 65,000 kids across the state become new smokers every year, and 22,000 of them will die early as a result. Tobacco-related health care expenditures cost Ohio and its taxpayers $3.4 billion each year. Such expenditures cost every Ohio household $450 in state and federal taxes annually.
The 2000 law calls for Ohio to place $1.26 billion of its tobacco settlement money over 12 years in the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation. Interest from the Foundation is being used to fund a comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation program, with funding reaching $60 million a year once the Foundation is fully funded.
Prevention programs are especially important because the tobacco companies continue to market their products to kids. Tobacco companies spend an estimated $334 million per year to market their products in Ohio. Recent studies show that the tobacco industry has actually increased its advertising in youth-oriented magazines and convenience stores where kids hang out — even though the tobacco settlement prohibits them from targeting kids.
There is growing evidence from other states that comprehensive tobacco prevention programs work to protect kids, save lives and save money. California, Massachusetts and Arizona have reduced tobacco use far beyond national declines, and Florida cut smoking rates by 47 percent among middle school students and 30 percent among high school students in just three years. 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. And studies have shown that California and Massachusetts are saving far more in tobacco-related health care costs than they are spending on tobacco prevention.
Ohio residents can send a free fax at www.ProtectOhioKids.org to make sure their lawmakers get the message. Visitors to www.ProtectOhioKids.org can also send a message to their friends and family through the site, and learn more about the campaign.