Virginia Legislature Shortchanges… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Virginia Legislature Shortchanges Kids and Taxpayers by Supporting Deep Cuts in Tobacco Prevention

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

Washington, DC — The budget proposed by the Virginia General Assembly's Conference Committee this morning shortchanges Virginia's kids and taxpayers by draining more than $15 million from the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation. If enacted, the Virginia Legislature's proposal would gut Virginia's tobacco prevention program just as it is getting off the ground. We are disappointed that the General Assembly chose this course of action and urge Governor Mark Warner to protect kids, not the tobacco industry, and restore full funding for tobacco prevention.

The Conference Committee's budget is penny-wise and pound-foolish. We have conclusive evidence from states that have implemented comprehensive tobacco prevention programs 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 help reduce these numbers. 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 will pay a high price if Governor Warner fails to restore tobacco settlement funding for tobacco prevention. More kids will become addicted to tobacco, more lives will be lost and taxpayers will pay more to treat smoking-caused disease. Governor Warner must choose: will he protect Virginia's kids and taxpayers or Big Tobacco.