Guest Blogger: Lindsay Hovind, Government Relations Director, Washington
Washington was once a national leader in tobacco prevention with a fully funded, comprehensive tobacco prevention program. Today, Washington has no state program AND tobacco use remains Washington’s number one cause of preventable death.
How did we get here? Washington once had a proven-effective tobacco prevention program shown to save $5 in healthcare costs for every $1 invested in the program. Yet during the economic downturn the program’s funding was diverted to the general fund. Since then it has been an uphill battled to restore funding; in 2012 the state received $732 million from the Master Settlement Agreement and tobacco taxes, yet not one penny went to fund tobacco prevention.
A grim picture, but we have a special opportunity in the 2014 legislative session to turn this around. As a result of a recent Master Settlement Agreement arbitration ruling, Washington will receive $10.5 million. By encouraging the Legislature to direct these funds to the state tobacco prevention and control account, we could re-establish and fund proven-effective tobacco prevention in Washington.
Nearly nine out of 10 smokers start by age 18. We must keep our youth from ever using tobacco and help tobacco users fight their deadly addiction. There is always a new group of kids vulnerable to the dangerous influence of tobacco companies. A strong tobacco prevention and education program is critical to counter those misleading claims and keep kids off tobacco.
Join us during the 2014 legislative session as we urge legislators to fund the life-saving tobacco prevention and control program.