May. 20 2008
Washington, D.C. — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids tonight will present Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen with its highest honor, the Champion Award, for his leadership in the fight to reduce the devastating toll of tobacco use.
The Champion Award recognizes Governor Bredesen's leadership in proposing, championing, and signing into law a "Tennessee Trifecta" of lifesaving legislation last year — a statewide smoke-free workplace law, a 42-cent increase in the cigarette tax, and new funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. In the process, Governor Bredesen made Tennessee a leader among traditional tobacco-growing states and an emerging leader nationally in taking a stand against tobacco use.
Governor Bredesen will be recognized at the Campaign's annual awards gala, a gathering of more than 400 government, public health, civic and business leaders to celebrate a year of tremendous progress in the fight against tobacco. This year's gala is being held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 1150 22nd Street NW.
"We applaud Governor Bredesen for his leadership and foresight in enacting a comprehensive strategy to combat the No. 1 preventable cause of death and disease in Tennessee — tobacco use," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Thanks to Governor Bredesen, Tennessee is reducing smoking, saving lives, and lowering smoking-caused health care costs - and, in the process, improving the physical and financial health of Tennesseans for generations to come. Because of Governor Bredesen's leadership, Tennessee is setting an example for its neighbors and the nation."
The Champion Award honors extraordinary leadership in the fight against tobacco use, the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Previous recipients include U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA); John Seffrin, president of the American Cancer Society; Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire; and District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty.
"Too many Tennesseans die each year from preventable tobacco-related illnesses," said Governor Bredesen. "I believe every citizen deserves the right to go to work, earn a paycheck, eat a meal, and provide for their families without risking their health in the process. The initiatives we passed last year represented the biggest step that any tobacco state has taken to reduce the toll of tobacco on the health and lives of its citizens, and it will ultimately mean healthier living for all the people of Tennessee."
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Tennessee, claiming more than 9,500 lives each year and costing the state $2.2 billion annually in health care bills, including $680 million in Medicaid payments alone. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $614 each year on every Tennessee household. Currently, 25.5 percent of Tennessee high school students smoke, and 9,400 more kids become regular smokers every year.
Nationally, tobacco use claims more than 400,000 lives and costs the nation about $100 billion in health care bills each year.
In addition to presenting Governor Bredesen with its Champion Award, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids also will honor its Youth Advocates of the Year, young leaders in the fight to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. The recipient of the 2008 National Youth Advocate of the Year award is C.J. Petersen, of Atlantic, Iowa.
For more information on the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, please visit www.tobaccofreekids.org.