To the editor:
Smoking — we all know how bad it is for us. There is also an abundance of information available to educate the public as to how detrimental the effects of tobacco are to our health. However, do our children get enough of this information? There was a time not long ago in 2001 that anti-smoking and anti-tobacco adds were all over the television. At that same time, massive efforts to educate our children in the schools were commonplace and funded with the cigarette excise tax and settlement money. This is not the case anymore. Due to the fiscal “crisis,” money originally intended to fund tobacco prevention and cessation is being diverted to other budget areas in the state.
In the year 2012, 9,000 residents died and $3.9 billion was spent on health care related to tobacco use; $815 million was collected in tobacco revenue. However, only $4.2 million, or 0.5 percent, was spent on tobacco prevention and cessation programs — a drastic drop from the $54.3 million spent in 2000. For the past 12 years, the cessation and prevention programs in the state have dwindled, which will likely lead to an increase in the tobacco usage rates, especially for our young teens as marketing strategies continue to be geared toward the most vulnerable.
As a parent of young teens, a daughter of a wonderful man who lost his life at the age of 49 to heart disease accelerated by smoking, and a nursing graduate student at Salem State University, I have initiated a petition to increase the awareness of and to promote an increase in funding to at least 10 percent. It is time to become proactive instead of just reactive. We must remember that this is an investment, which will eventually dramatically reduce the amount of tax dollars we spend on tobacco-related health care for conditions such as lung cancer, COPD, heart disease and more!