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Ohio Advertising Campaign is Important Step in Reducing Youth Smoking, but State Must Adequately Fund Program

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 28, 2002

Washington, DC — The Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation has taken an important step forward by launching its 'stand' advertising campaign to counter the tobacco industry's marketing barrage to kids in the state. Similar counter-marketing campaigns, conducted as part of comprehensive tobacco prevention programs, have been highly effective at reducing smoking rates in California, Massachusetts, Florida, Maine, Oregon and other states. The newly launched campaign can help dramatically reduce the number of children who use tobacco if it is part of a sustained, well-funded, comprehensive effort. We applaud the Ohio Foundation for taking this important first step, but if Ohio's program is to succeed its funding must be sustained and the $240 million diverted from the tobacco prevention endowment last year needs to be restored.

Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments that Ohio can make. Efforts to cut tobacco prevention are penny-wise and pound-foolish. We have conclusive evidence that tobacco prevention works. States that have implemented such programs have dramatically cut smoking among both children and adults, reduced the incidence of lung cancer and heart disease, and saved millions of dollars in health care costs. The evidence is clear:

Reducing smoking: Since starting its program in 1998, Florida has cut smoking rates by 47 percent among middle school students and 30 percent among high school students. This decline represents nearly 75,000 fewer youth smokers and more than 24,000 fewer premature smoking deaths. Since 1997, Maine has cut smoking by 36 percent among high school students, while Oregon has cut smoking by 41 percent among eighth graders.

Saving Lives: Recent studies show that California, which started the nation's oldest tobacco prevention program in 1989, has saved tens of thousands of lives by reducing smoking-caused birth complications, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.

Saving money for taxpayers: Studies have shown that California and Massachusetts, which have long-running tobacco prevention programs, are saving up to $3 in smoking-caused health costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention.

Tobacco-related health care expenditures cost Ohio and its taxpayers $3.4 billion each year. More than 65,000 Ohio kids become new regular smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result. If adequately funded and sustained over time, a comprehensive tobacco prevention program can substantially reduce this toll.

In addition to the counter-marketing campaign, Ohio also needs to implement other elements of a comprehensive tobacco prevention program: community and school-based programs, strong enforcement of laws against sales to minors, and cessation services to help smokers quit. There's much that still needs to be done in Ohio, but it is gratifying to see progress is being made.