LEGISLATORS CUTTING ANTI-SMOKING EDUCATION FUNDS-Andrew Stelzer

03/29/04

1n 1998, the State of Florida allocated 70 million dollars for an education campaign to teach young people about the dangers of smoking tobacco. Although the program has been successful in reducing the number of people who begin smoking, funding for the program has been cut every year; it now faces the prospect of being discontinued. The next few days will determine the fate of the TRUTH program; WMNF’s Andrew Stelzer has more on this story


ACT HULL “The state of Florida gets 441 million…�

Paul Hull works with the American cancer society

ACT The public supports this overwhelmingly…calling legislators and demanding they do right by these kids.�

When the senate voted last week on whether to appropriate money to the TRUTH anti-smoking campaign, the proposal was for 39 million dollars. The vote was tied 9 to 9; the result is that they are planning no allocations of funds to the program. Senator Ron Klein is pushing the bill; he says that other senator’s explanations that the state doesn’t have money are not good enough

ACT “The budget crisis is all about priorities…and it will end up saving us money on health care, and the Medicaid program�

Klein also notes that Florida gets 414 million dollars every year from Tobacco companies in a settlement reached for health damage they did to Floridians over the years. He says that’s where the money has come from in the past, and it should continue to.

ACT “The people that are voting against this are saying we don’t have the money, but this is only 10 percent of what we get from the tobacco companies…�

The house budget also has no money for the TRUTH program, and legislators acknowledge that smoking causes disease, increasing healthcare costs for the state in the long run. So why are they not making this a priority? Paul Hull says he’s not sure, but it may have something to do with the style of TV advertisements that were a key piece of the campaign to reduce smoking.

ACT “The folks in the public health community are dumbfounded…seemingly because they don’t like the edginess of the ads�

ACT “The ads were designed by kids for kids…they point fun at the tobacco industry and the intelligence of kids themselves�

PLAY AD HERE

Between 1998 to 2000, the first two years of the truth campaign, the percent of Florida middle schoolers who smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days fell from 18.5 to 8.6 percent while the percentage for high schoolers went from 27.4 to 20.9. Senator KLIEN says that is a testament to how much the truth program is needed.

ACT ‘Despite the fact that the ads were hard hitting…they told us they worked.�

Hull says that the tobacco companies’ influence is another key aspect of the legislators’ reluctance to get behind this program.

ACT “The tobacco industry gives millions to both parties..repubs get more because they’re in power…this money isn’t just for ads.�(SPLIT THIS?)

Both the house and senate budgets will be amended on Thursday, and passed on Friday. Currently, neither the house nor the senate has money in the budget for tobacco education, if either one puts some money in their budget. The governors budget suggests 16 million dollars for the program, but according to advocates, unless legislators here from the public between now and Thursday the program will probably not be funded at all.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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