Dec. 6 2001
Washington, DC — The Ohio Legislature and Governor Bob Taft have let down Ohio's kids and taxpayers by raiding $240 million in payments to the state's tobacco prevention foundation. Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments that Ohio can make. Ohio will pay a high price if tobacco prevention funds are not quickly repaid to the trust fund as lawmakers have promised. More kids will become addicted to tobacco, more lives will be lost and taxpayers will pay more to treat smoking-caused disease.
Cutting tobacco prevention is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Tobacco-related health care expenditures cost Ohio and its taxpayers $3.4 billion each year. If adequately funded and sustained over time, tobacco prevention programs can substantially reduce these costs. The experience of California and Massachusetts, which have two of the nation's oldest tobacco prevention programs, show that states can save as much as $8 in smoking-caused health care costs for every dollar they spend on tobacco prevention. This kind of foresight led legislators in Massachusetts who faced a budget shortfall similar to Ohio's to increase spending on their program this week. By cutting funding for tobacco prevention, savings for Ohio's taxpayers will be reduced over the long term.
In addition to saving money, tobacco prevention programs protect kids and save lives. California, Massachusetts and Arizona, which have three of the nation's most established tobacco prevention programs, 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 is not only reducing tobacco consumption, but also saving lives by reducing rates of heart disease and lung cancer.
By maintaining its commitment to tobacco prevention, Ohio can also reduce the toll of tobacco. Approximately 33 percent of Ohio's high school students smoke. More than 65,000 Ohio kids become new regular smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.
There are few other expenditures that Ohio can make that will have a greater impact on the health of more people and the long-term financial well being of the state than the continuation of its tobacco prevention program.