Virginia Legislature Should Protect… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

Virginia Legislature Should Protect Kids and Taxpayers by Restoring Funding for Tobacco Prevention

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 08, 2002

Washington, DC — To protect Virginia's kids from the terrible toll of tobacco, the Virginia Legislature must restore funding for the state's tobacco prevention program, which would be cut by 75 percent under the budget submitted by Governor Mark Warner. From the experiences of other states, we now have conclusive evidence that tobacco prevention programs work to dramatically cut youth smoking, reduce the incidence of lung cancer and heart disease, and save millions of dollars in smoking-caused health care costs. Virginia will pay a high price if its leaders fail to adequately fund tobacco prevention. More kids will become addicted to tobacco, more lives will be lost and taxpayers will pay more to treat smoking-caused disease.

Virginia's tobacco prevention program currently is funded at just 10 percent of the state's tobacco settlement proceeds. However, the budget of former Governor James Gilmore cut funding for the program by 75 percent. Governor Warner's proposed budget continues the cut. If the Legislature adopts this proposal, it would gut Virginia's tobacco prevention program just as it is getting off the ground. We urge Virginia lawmakers to support amendments to restore the funding that have been introduced by Senator Thomas K. Norment of Williamsburg, Senator John C. Watkins of Chesterfield, and Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton of Newport News. The House of Delegates Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources is scheduled to hold a hearing on the tobacco prevention program on Monday, February 11.

Cutting tobacco prevention is penny-wise and pound-foolish. States that have implemented tobacco prevention programs have proven that these programs not only reduce smoking and save lives, but also save taxpayers millions of dollars by reducing smoking-caused health care costs, which total $1.3 billion a year in Virginia. States are saving as much as $3 in smoking-caused health care costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention.

In Virginia 17,000 kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely. Cigarettes will kill about 114,000 Virginia kids alive today. A comprehensive, statewide tobacco prevention program can protect Virginia's kids. Florida, for example, reduced smoking rates by 47 percent among middle school students and 30 percent among high school students in three years, while Mississippi has cut public high school smoking 25 percent since 1999. Virginia's kids deserve the same protection from a lifetime of addiction, disease and death.