Tobacco opponents want help from kids
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Coalition for a Tobacco Free Utah wants school children to help it convince the Legislature that money is the key to keeping kids from smoking and getting those who have already started to quit.
"The idea is to show how tobacco has affected Utahns through the eyes of children,'' said Kim Parker of the Weber- Morgan Health Department's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program and a coalition member. "We want to have school- age children share their stories, write their own stories,'' Parker said.
The coalition, through local health departments and schools, is asking primarily fifth and sixth-grade students to participate in the program. But it's really open to any school age children, said coalition chair Joy Erickson.
The organization of government health agencies, non-profit groups such as the American Cancer Society, and health care providers such as Intermountain Health Care wants the students to write one-page letters about how tobacco has affected a family member or "what's good about not smoking,'' said Erickson.
The coalition would like to receive the letters by Jan. 5 and plans to make a display of selected letters to place in the Capitol Feb. 8, during the legislative session.
The coalition will be lobbying the Legislature this coming session to provide $4 million for a second year for tobacco prevention, cessation and enforcement programs. That amount for fiscal year 2001 came from the state's first-year share of the national tobacco settlement. Each year for 25 years Utah hopes to receive about $30 million from the settlement.
Half of that $30 million goes into a protected trust fund and only the interest can be spent by the Legislature. The other money was split this past year with $5 million to a health insurance program for low-income children, $4 million for cancer research at the University of Utah, and $4 million for anti-tobacco programs.
"We have to make a statement that we maintain that ($4 million) annual funding,'' Erickson said. "And we want the Legislature to know we didn't get enough of the tobacco settlement money this year for a comprehensive, statewide program.''