DES MOINES. Attorney General Tom Miller is urging the Iowa Legislature to reject sharp funding cuts to the State's tobacco prevention and control program. Late Monday the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut the appropriation from $9.3 million to $5 million for the State's program to reduce tobacco use - especially by Iowa's youth. The matter is before the full House today.
Miller spoke at a "Kick Butts" rally on the steps of the State Capitol, part of the seventh annual Youth Advocacy Day against tobacco. Miller filed Iowa's lawsuit against the tobacco industry and was instrumental in reaching a nationwide settlement that included the industry paying about $2 Billion to Iowa by the year 2025.
Statement of Attorney General Miller:
"The proposed cuts are unwise, misguided, and not in keeping with the goal of using a meaningful portion of Iowa's huge tobacco settlement funds to reduce death and disease -- and taxpayer costs -- that result from tobacco use and nicotine addiction.
"Similar programs are working and saving lives in other states. Iowa's program was established with bipartisan support, and it was on course until now. But the Legislative cuts literally will cost thousands of lives if they aren't reversed.
"There traditionally has been bipartisan support for tobacco prevention and control programs. Gov. Branstad supported the State's lawsuit which was launched in 1996, and he kicked tobacco out of Terrace Hill. State Representative Dave Heaton, a Mount Pleasant Republican, has been the lawmaker most responsible for the bipartisan funding of the strong tobacco prevention program for the last two years - at $9.3 million. He has been an Iowa hero in his commitment and bipartisanship. But now, Appropriations Chair Dave Millage and a few Republicans have launched a partisan effort to undermine this funding.
"We know that state-supported tobacco prevention and control programs work - they reduce tobacco use, addiction, disease and death.
- California reduced smoking by a third among both adults and kids
- Massachusetts achieved more than a 22% reduction in four years.
- Oregon achieved a 11% reduction in two years.
"Iowa's program is similar to programs in these states and it will work - if we stay the course, spend the needed funds, and sustain the programs. The savings will be enormous - in lives saved, money saved, and heartache averted.
"The lawsuit we filed against the tobacco industry with the full support of Gov. Branstad had a chief goal of reducing tobacco addiction, death, and costs to taxpayers. The settlement had the same foremost goal. Now, however, the Republicans already have taken over $150 million from the Fund in the last couple years for other purposes in balancing the budget. And now they won't even spend the $9 million needed to sustain a serious and effective program. They should agree to take at least $4 million out of the Fund to do the tobacco prevention program right, just like they took the $150 million.
"The anti-smoking ads work. They were the most effective part of the successful states' efforts - and Iowa's ads are similar to theirs. The ads are working here. To criticize tough ads is to be a mouthpiece for the view espoused by the tobacco industry. Iowa's campaign is modest compared to that of the tobacco industry - which has increased its advertising budget in Iowa by $31 million since the start of Iowa's program.
"It is shortsighted and wrong to cut the tobacco control program funding. The program saves lives - and we have over 5,000 tobacco-related deaths every year in Iowa. Tobacco use is the number-one cause of preventable death in Iowa.
"Reducing tobacco addiction, disease and death will save millions of dollars in Medicaid costs. And reducing tobacco sales is critical to maintain federal substance abuse funding. The Synar Amendment requires certain success rates in retailers refusing sales to minors. Iowa failed the test a few years ago, but now is passing - but program funding cuts will jeopardize that compliance and put at risk over $5 million in federal substance abuse funding. Again, cutting the Iowa program is short-sighted.
"Iowa's program is supported by the people. According to a poll released Monday, 76% of Iowans have a favorable impression and only 17% unfavorable. The poll was conducted for Tobacco-Free Iowa by Market Strategies. The poll notes that 82% of voters say the funding for the program should remain the same or be increased.
"This program saves lives and saves taxpayer money. We should continue a strong and fully-funded program." [END OF STATEMENT BY ATTORNEY GENERAL MILLER.]
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