Oregon Leaders Betray Voters and… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Oregon Leaders Betray Voters and Kids By Proposing Cuts to State’s Popular and Effective Tobacco Prevention Program

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Vice President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 25, 2003

Washington, D.C. — A legislative proposal in Oregon to cut funding for the state's highly successful Tobacco Prevention and Education Program (TPEP) betrays the will of Oregon voters and will cost the state dearly in health, lives and money if implemented. Oregon voters twice have expressed their strong support for tobacco prevention by approving increases in the state tobacco tax and dedicating some of the revenue to TPEP. Oregon's leaders should follow the will of the voters and continue to fund tobacco prevention.

Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention remains one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments Oregon can make. In fact, tobacco prevention is part of the solution to the budget woes Oregon is facing. The state Department of Health Services estimates that, over the next budget biennium, Oregon's tobacco prevention program will save the state $80 million in tobacco-related health care costs and other economic costs, including $20 million under the Medicaid program. If Oregon stays the course, it can substantially reduce the $871 million in smoking-caused health care costs that the state and its taxpayers pay each year. It is clearly penny-wise and pound-foolish to cut tobacco prevention.

In addition to saving money, Oregon's tobacco prevention program is preventing kids from starting to smoke, helping adults to quit, and saving thousands of lives. Since 1996, TPEP efforts have helped reduce smoking by 47 percent among eighth graders and 26 percent among eleventh graders. It has resulted in 25,000 fewer youth smokers and 75,000 fewer adult smokers, according to the Department of Health Services.

Despite recent successes, tobacco continues to take a tremendous toll in Oregon. Every year, 6,000 Oregonians die from tobacco-caused disease, and 8,500 more kids become addicted smokers. Oregon voters want to stop this tragedy. The state's leaders should too.