Governor Barbour’s Proposal to Cut Funding for Mississippi’s Tobacco Prevention Program Would Sacrifice the Health of Mississippi’s Children to Protect Big Tobacco

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Dec. 14 2004

Washington, DC — In a statement issued today, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a former tobacco industry lobbyist, proposed raiding the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi– the state’s nationally recognized, highly successful tobacco prevention program that has dramatically reduced the number of Mississippi kids who use tobacco. Governor Barbour’s proposal is a sign of his allegiance to the tobacco companies, offered at the expense of the health of Mississippi’s kids.

Mississippi’s award-winning tobacco prevention program, launched in 1999 with money awarded to the state from its lawsuit against the tobacco industry, has shown extraordinary results by reducing smoking by 48 percent among public middle school students and by 29 percent among public high school students between 1999 and 2002. This program has effectively saved lives and saved money for taxpayers by reducing tobacco-related Medicaid and other health care costs. Governor Barbour’s proposal will cost every taxpayer in Mississippi because it will increase the state’s Medicaid costs. It is shortsighted and costly.

Less than one month ago a report issued by this organization and this nation’s leading health organizations found that Mississippi’s program was a national model. The report found that even though Mississippi is one of only three states that are currently funding tobacco prevention programs at the minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the tobacco industry is still spending eight times that much to market their produces in the state. The Governor’s proposal to cut this successful program would be destructive to the health of all Mississippians and would benefit only the tobacco industry.

If the Governor’s concern is the state’s budget, instead of raiding the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, Governor Barbour should support increasing the state’s low cigarette tax and use the revenue generated to pay for state health and Medicaid programs. Increasing the tobacco tax is a proven way to reduce youth smoking and reduce tobacco-caused disease, death and health care costs, while raising revenue to fund important state programs and balance the budget.

Governor Barbour’s actions are not surprising given his long history of ties to the tobacco industry. As a lobbyist in Washington, DC, Haley Barbour received millions of dollars from the tobacco industry to represent their special interests at the expense of public health. The Governor’s latest proposal to cut Mississippi’s tobacco prevention program would be yet another giveaway to big tobacco, and an enormous sacrifice for the health of Mississippi’s kids.

 

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