Oct. 10 2002
Washington, D.C. — Governor Jane Swift today has again betrayed Massachusetts' kids and voters by further cutting funding for the state's already decimated tobacco prevention program. We call on the candidates for governor, Shannon O'Brien and Mitt Romney, to stand up for Massachusetts' children and commit to restoring funding for this highly successful program to $35 million, the minimum amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This amounts to less than five percent of the $800 million a year that Massachusetts collects in revenue from tobacco taxes and the state tobacco settlement. Surely a small part of this tobacco money should be used for tobacco prevention.
It is incomprehensible that Gov. Swift would insist on leaving as a legacy the destruction of a tobacco prevention program with a proven record of protecting kids, saving lives and saving money for taxpayers. With the $3.8 million in cuts the governor is making today, she will have cut funding for the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program by more than 87 percent, from $48 million to less than $6 million. She is destroying a program that reduced youth smoking by 27 percent between 1995 and 2001, 50 percent more than the national reduction, and saves Massachusetts $85 million in tobacco-caused health care costs every year – that's more than $2 for every $1 spent on prevention. This is the ultimate in penny-wise, pound-foolish budgeting.
While we recognize that Massachusetts must make tough choices to balance the budget, cutting one highly successful, money-saving program by nearly 90 percent represents neither fair-shared sacrifice nor smart budgeting. It also breaks faith with Massachusetts' voters who in 1992 approved a cigarette tax increase to fund tobacco prevention. In addition, even if the program is funded at $35 million, it would still amount to a cut of 27 percent from the previous funding level of $48 million. In other words, the program can be properly funded and still contribute to addressing Massachusetts' budget shortfall.
Massachusetts will pay a high price if its next governor does not restore funding for tobacco prevention. More kids will become addicted, more lives will be lost and taxpayers will pay millions more to treat tobacco-caused disease, which already cost Massachusetts $2.76 billion a year. The candidates for governor should commit today to restoring funding for tobacco prevention to the minimum level recommended by the CDC.