In 2009 North Carolinians were celebrating the lowest teen smoking rates in state history. The high school rate had been cut by 30 percent, and the middle school rate by more than 50 percent. This was the result of effective tobacco education and cessation programs that had recurrent funding of $17.3 million. North Carolina was well on its way to having a smoke-free generation.
Sadly, over the next two years our lawmakers reduced and finally eliminated the funding for these programs. This despite the fact that North Carolina receives $140 million annually from the tobacco companies in the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. This money was supposed to be used to remediate the harm caused by the use of tobacco.
Last year N.C. spent $3.2 billion on tobacco-related health issues. This year, 14,200 North Carolinians will lose their lives to tobacco-related illness. Every member of the General Assembly I talk to wishes to reduce health care costs. How, then, is it possible to craft a state budget with not a single dollar devoted to tobacco education? I cannot understand such incredible shortsightedness.
Our children are worth more than $0.
North Carolina lead ambassador, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network