Big Tobacco Wins, Kids and Taxpayers Lose if Illinois Further Curtails Tobacco Prevention Programs

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Vice President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Sep. 18 2002

Washington, DC — Illinois' kids and taxpayers will lose if the state proceeds with plans to stop all tobacco prevention programs by suspending funds in the Illinois Tobacco Settlement Recovery Fund. This latest action comes on the heels of passage of a state budget in June that slashed funding for tobacco prevention by 74 percent. We call on Governor Ryan to allow the tobacco prevention program to continue by making a short-term loan to the fund. We also call on the next governor to make tobacco prevention funding a priority.

Allowing this fund to dry up is a shortsighted move that may spell the end for tobacco prevention in Illinois. Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is one of the smartest investments Illinois can make. Cutting tobacco prevention is a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach that ignores the conclusive evidence from states around the country that tobacco prevention programs are reducing smoking among both kids and adults, saving lives by reducing the incidence of lung cancer and heart disease, and saving money by reducing smoking-caused health care costs. In fact, the best programs are saving up to $3 in health costs for every dollar spent on the programs. Illinois will miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve these benefits and savings if it breaks the promise of the tobacco settlement to use some of the funds to reduce smoking.

It is especially troubling that Governor Ryan would take this action just as smokers across the state are turning to these programs for help in quitting. Illinois's recent 40-cent cigarette tax is expected to result in tens of thousands of smokers quitting, and is projected to save 31,000 Illinois residents from tobacco-caused deaths. It is unfair for smokers trying to quit to lose their cessation services when they need them most.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that Illinois spend $64.9 million on tobacco prevention services. Prior to these latest cuts, Illinois was projected to spend $12 million, or less than 19 percent of the CDC minimum.

Powerful evidence exists from states with comprehensive tobacco prevention programs that these programs work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money for taxpayers. States that have had successful programs include Florida, which cut smoking by 47 percent among high school students and 30 percent among middle school students between 1998 and 2001; Oregon, which cut smoking by 41 percent among eighth graders between 1996 and 2000; Maine, which cut high school smoking by 36 percent from 1997 to 2001; and Mississippi, which cut public high school smoking by 25 percent from 1999 to 2001. Studies show California, which started the nation's oldest tobacco prevention program in 1990, has saved tens of thousands of lives by reducing smoking-caused birth complications, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.

Tobacco's toll in Illinois is devastating – 34 percent of youths currently smoke, and 36,400 more kids become daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result. Smoking-caused health care expenses cost Illinois $3.2 billion a year. By cutting tobacco prevention, more kids will become addicted to tobacco, more lives will be lost and taxpayers will pay more to treat smoking-caused disease. We urge Illinois' leaders to reverse course and fund tobacco prevention.

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