State Rolls Out Aggressive Tobacco Prevention and Control Plan
OLYMPIA, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 10, 1999--``Tobacco is the adversary and it's time to draw a line in the sand.''
Those words today from state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky as she presented legislators with a comprehensive plan to reduce tobacco use in Washington. The plan recommends spending about $26 million in each of the next two years to prevent youth from starting to use tobacco and help people who are already addicted to quit.
``We're recommending programs that are succeeding in other states,'' said Selecky. ``We'll target youth and other high-risk groups in much the same way Big Tobacco has pursued and urged teens to begin smoking.''
The goals of Washington's Tobacco Prevention and Control Plan are to:
-- Prevent initiation of tobacco use in youth and young adults
-- Promote quitting among youth and adults
-- Eliminate exposure to environmental tobacco smoke; and
Identify and eliminate tobacco use disparities and effects on different populations.
To reach these goals, the plan calls for a variety of activities in six areas: Community-based programs will build on existing tobacco prevention and control efforts. School-based programs expect to reach nearly one million children and youth with tobacco prevention education. Cessation activities will help tobacco users quit. Public awareness and education efforts will use mass media campaigns to counter the tobacco industry's marketing. Youth access activities, already in existence to prevent young people from purchasing tobacco products, will be shored up to further reduce sales to minors. Assessment and evaluation will allow the Department of Health to monitor results and make sure the programs are working.
For the past five months, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been consulting with the department, stressing that all six parts of the plan must work together, for the program to succeed.
``No one of these strategies by itself can accomplish the objective of reducing tobacco use and the accompanying, staggering human and economic costs,'' Office on Smoking and Health Program Services Branch Chief Dearell Neimeyer said. ``Rather, it is the interdependence and synergy among all components and strategies that will lead to the reduction in both adult and adolescent tobacco use. This has been amply demonstrated in the tobacco control and prevention strategies adopted by such states as California and Massachusetts.''
Washington's tobacco prevention plan is based on successful programs in other states such as Massachusetts, Florida and California. In Massachusetts, smoking by high school students fell 15 percent in four years. In Florida, tobacco use by middle school students dropped 21 percent in less than a year. In California, smoking is down 38 percent in ten years.
``While these states are reducing tobacco use, the problem is getting worse in Washington,'' Selecky noted. ``The average age kids start using tobacco here is 12 years old, and 65 children start every day. One-third of them will die from it.
``By investing in prevention and smoking cessation programs now, we can save lives and money. Legislators chose with wisdom and vision to use some settlement funds to prevent children from getting addicted to this drug; I'm asking that we work together to fulfill this commitment.''
In the first three years of the program, adult tobacco use in Washington would drop by 2 percent and 28,000 premature deaths would be prevented. Put another way, the state would save more than $1 billion in future health care costs -- more than $130 million from Medicaid alone. In the first 10 years of a fully-funded program, adult tobacco use is expected to fall by 6 percent. That translates to 84,000 early deaths and more than $3 billion in future health care savings, with $408 million from Medicaid.
``When it comes to preventing tobacco-caused diseases, we're not only talking about the well known smoking illnesses such as lung, throat and mouth cancer, but also stroke and heart disease as well as bladder, cervical and stomach cancer,'' Secretary Selecky said.
The Tobacco Prevention and Control Plan is the product of recommendations from a 16-member advisory council to the Department of Health. During a five-month period, the Tobacco Prevention and Control Council met monthly, convened myriad work groups, conducted six community workshops and asked for youth input. The state Senate and House held the first hearings on the tobacco plan last week.