Oct. 29 2002
Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Washington, D.C. — The candidates for Governor of Massachusetts should immediately endorse restoring funding for the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program in light of a new Department of Public Health study released today showing the program has reduced high school smoking rates by 30 percent in the last three years. It is an outrage that Gov. Jane Swift has acted irresponsibly and against the interests of Massachusetts' kids by cutting funding for tobacco prevention by 87 percent in the last year. It is also troubling that the major candidates for governor, Mitt Romney and Shannon O'Brien, have not committed to restoring funding for the program. Today's impressive results should spur candidates Romney and O'Brien to immediately stand up for Massachusetts' kids and endorse restoring funding for tobacco prevention. It is up to them whether Massachusetts continues to protect its kids from tobacco or leaves them at the mercy of the tobacco industry, which spends $215 million a year to market its deadly products in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts receives more than $800 million a year in revenue from cigarette taxes and the state tobacco settlement. Just five percent of this tobacco money, or $35 million, would fund the tobacco prevention program at the minimum level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It's only right that Massachusetts continue to use some of its tobacco money for tobacco prevention.
The Department of Public Health study released today shows that, from 1999 to 2002, Massachusetts reduced high school smoking by 29.7 percent (from 30 percent to 21 percent) and middle school smoking by 13 percent (from 9.2 percent to 8 percent).
These results show that tobacco prevention works and is one of the best investments Massachusetts can make. Because of the Massachusetts tobacco prevention program, fewer kids are starting to smoke, more adults are quitting and thousands of lives have been saved. For every dollar spent by the program, the state has saved two dollars in health care costs due to smoking-caused illness, according to an MIT study.
Despite this progress, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Massachusetts. It kills 9,000 more Massachusetts residents and addicts 13,700 more Massachusetts kids ever year. Tobacco-caused disease costs the state $2.76 billion in health care expenditures every year. Massachusetts will pay a high price unless the next governor restores 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.