Teen tobacco control program snuffed by lack of state funds
FREETOWN -- The regional tobacco control program, PACT, will end Nov. 30, regional leader Judith Coykendall has told selectmen.
The program is folding because of an 80 percent budget reduction in the state's allotment to the program.
The program helps towns develop regulations to prevent teens from purchasing tobacco products and serves to find ways to protect nonsmokers from the dangers of second-hand smoke.
"I thoroughly enjoyed working in Freetown," Ms. Coykendall told selectmen at Monday's meeting.
Although the town was one of the last in the area to adopt a bylaw to prevent teens from buying tobacco, she said she is glad the regulations are in place.
Ms. Coykendall said that of the $800 million the state takes in from tobacco sales taxes, only $5 million is going toward funding the tobacco control program, an 80 percent cut.
When the program closes, Ms. Coykendall said, PACT will no longer perform compliance checks at stores and restaurants.
Beth Connelly Silva of the New Bedford Clean Air Coalition told selectmen she will be available to help town officials with new tobacco regulations.
Town officials are considering having all public and private businesses become smoke-free.
Selectman Lawrence N. Ashley suggested phasing in such a program, starting with new businesses coming into town. He said the rest of the businesses could be phased in over three to four years.
Regarding compliance checks, Selectman John S. Ashley said the town can do them on its own.
Ms. Coykendall said she will turn all her files over to Linda Lynn, the selectmen's administrative assistant.
Future funding for the tobacco control program is in limbo. "We don't know where tomorrow will leave us," Ms. Silva said.
John Ashley said he thinks it is a shame that the program has been curtailed; he predicted that the smoking rate among teens will soar.
Lawrence Ashley remained optimistic about the program's future. "Good luck to you," he told Ms. Coykendall, adding, "I have no doubt we will see you again."