April 30th was an important day for tobacco control in DC. Approximately fifteen advocates from the DC community met at the Wilson Building to advocate for an alarming health problem that affects all DC residents. Advocates personally impacted by the effects of tobacco met with the staff of Councilmembers David Catania, Mary Cheh, Jack Evans, and Tommy Wells to express the critical need for increased funding for tobacco control programs. Advocates were even able to personally talk to Councilmember David Grosso, a member of the Health Committee.
According to the American Lung Association, if DC were graded, it would receive an "F" for its efforts to support tobacco prevention and cessation programs. In fact, for the past two years DC has only contributed $495,000 to tobacco programs which is less than 5% of the $10.7 million suggested by the CDC. If more funding were available, it would support programs helping people quit tobacco (such as the DC Quitline), preventing youth tobacco use, marketing against tobacco use, and enforcing tobacco laws. These programs are essential to the health of DC residents, yet Council has neglected to support them.
The You’re the Cure advocates who participated in Tobacco Control Legislative Day are instrumental in gaining support of the Councilmembers that vote on the tobacco and other AHA priority issues. According to one participating YTC advocate, Charles Debnam, “We must continue to work every day to make tobacco cessation, prevention and programs a priority in this city. Having a Tobacco Control Legislative Day is an effective way for the members of the DC Tobacco Free Coalition to meet with city legislators to obtain continued support for tobacco cessation and prevention funding for the District of Columbia. I hope we have many more."
Despite the passionate work of advocates, DC Council’s Committee on Health failed to invest in tobacco programs in their 2015 budget, approved on May 14.
The American Heart Association strongly supports full funding for tobacco programs to help support residents quit tobacco use. YTC members can show support for tobacco control and encourage Councilmembers to protect the health of DC residents by taking action at: http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=34732