Oct. 31 2002
Washington, D.C. — Shannon O'Brien, the Democratic candidate for Governor of Massachusetts, has taken the right stand for kids and taxpayers by committing to restore full funding for Massachusetts' highly successful tobacco prevention program. We welcome her public commitment, which was reported in the October 30 Boston Herald. Because Gov. Jane Swift has cut its budget by nearly 90 percent in the past year, the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program will be destroyed unless the next governor restores funding. By restoring funding for tobacco prevention, the next governor can protect Massachusetts' kids from the death, disease and addiction caused by tobacco use and save taxpayers millions of dollars by reducing the tremendous cost of treating tobacco-caused disease.
While Republican candidate Mitt Romney has expressed support for tobacco prevention, he has stopped short of committing to restoring full funding. In a letter to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, the Romney campaign stated, "Mitt Romney's goal as governor will be to fundamentally restructure government so we can restore funding for worthwhile programs, including the tobacco control program." We urge Mitt Romney to join Shannon O'Brien in committing, without condition, to restoring full funding for tobacco prevention.
Massachusetts receives more than $800 million a year in revenue from cigarette taxes and the state tobacco settlement. Just 5 percent of this 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.
Massachusetts has led the nation in its tobacco control efforts since the state's voters overwhelmingly supported the creation of the program in 1993. Just this week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released a new study showing that smoking rates for Massachusetts high school students have gone down an extraordinary 30 percent in the past three years. Previous studies have shown that the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program saves the state two dollars in health care costs for every one dollar spent on prevention.
Polls taken since the budget for the program was slashed show a large majority of Massachusetts' voters disagree with the budget cuts and want the next Governor to restore funding for tobacco prevention. Shannon O'Brien's commitment to restore full funding for tobacco prevention shows that she's listening to what Massachusetts' voters are saying.