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Massachusetts Legislature Should Override Governor Swift's Irresponsible Cut in Funding for Tobacco Prevention

Statement by Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
December 03, 2001

Washington, DC — We call on the Massachusetts Legislature to override Governor Jane Swift's irresponsible veto of $17 million in funding for the highly successful Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program. Even in these difficult budget times, the smart and fiscally responsible decision for Massachusetts is to fully fund tobacco prevention. Massachusetts will pay a high price if its tobacco prevention program is cut. More kids will become addicted to tobacco, more lives will be lost and taxpayers will pay more to treat smoking-caused disease.

Cutting tobacco prevention is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Tobacco-related health care expenditures cost Massachusetts and its taxpayers $2.5 billion a year. If adequately funded and sustained over time, tobacco prevention programs can substantially reduce these costs. A 1999 MIT study showed Massachusetts saves more than two dollars in health care costs from smoking-caused diseases for every dollar it spent on tobacco prevention. If tobacco prevention funding is cut, these savings for Massachusetts' taxpayers will be reduced as well.

Just as important as the program's financial benefits is its success in protecting kids from tobacco. Since Massachusetts launched its program in 1993, it has seen tobacco consumption fall at four times the rate of the rest of the country, and smoking among high school students has declined by 15 percent. It is incomprehensible that Governor Swift would seek to cut a program that is delivering so many benefits at so little cost. It is also important to remember that funding for Massachusetts' program comes from revenues generated by a voter-approved cigarette excise tax. It would be breaking faith with Massachusetts' voters to cut funding for tobacco prevention.

Other states have learned the hard way that cutting state tobacco prevention programs does not make sense from a public health or a fiscal viewpoint. For example, the substantial early successes of California's pioneering program were reversed when the Legislature cut the program's budget. The Legislature has since restored the program, and numerous studies subsequently have shown large reductions in smoking among both teens and adults, hundreds of millions of dollars in reduced health care costs and thousands of lives saved by reducing smoking-caused diseases. In Florida, there is evidence that cuts to that once-model program are already reducing its effectiveness.

There are few other expenditures that Massachusetts can make that will have a greater impact on the health of more people and the long-term financial well being of the state than the continuation of its tobacco prevention program.