Use Tobacco Settlement Dollars to Reduce Smoking, Not Replace I-695 Money
OLYMPIA, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 22, 1999--Washington State's tobacco settlement funds should be used to prevent children from taking up the deadly tobacco habit, not to help make up for funding shortfalls due to Initiative 695, said state Secretary
``In three years, tobacco prevention will save 28,000 lives and $136 million in state Medicaid costs,'' Selecky said. ``Tobacco prevention is an investment in good health and a viable means to reducing the state's medical costs.
``Legislators made a wise decision to use a portion of the tobacco settlement toward preventing children from getting addicted to this drug and helping users quit,'' Selecky continued. ``I am asking them to uphold their commitment.''
Earlier this year, the Legislature established a dedicated account for tobacco prevention and agreed to put $100 million into the account from the state's first tobacco payment. Legislators also directed the Department of Health to develop a tobacco prevention plan for using these funds. The plan -- due to the Legislature in early December -- must receive legislators' approval before any funds may be spent.
Every day 65 children in Washington State begin smoking or chewing tobacco. One-third of them will die as a direct result of using tobacco. Almost 90 percent of tobacco users begin before they are 19. What is more, tobacco kills more than 8,000 people in Washington state every year, and costs more than $3 billion a year in hospital and medical costs.
``We will recommend programs that have achieved successful and measurable results in other states,'' Selecky noted. ``That's why I'm so confident we can significantly reduce the number of children who start using tobacco in our state, and help thousands of people quit.''
Tobacco use kills more people in Washington every year than all deaths from AIDS, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, motor vehicle crashes, fires, homicides and suicides combined.
Selecky added, ``Tobacco prevention, on the other hand, has been proven to save lives.''