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Maryland Voters Overwhelmingly Favor Funding for Tobacco Prevention

ANNAPOLIS, Md., March 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The State Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee heard testimony yesterday on Senator Nathaniel McFadden's Senate Bill 513. Senate Bill 513 requires that Maryland increase its commitment to preventing and reducing tobacco use to $63 million, the full amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Maryland law now requires that the state spend $21 million, less than one third of the recommended amount, on programs to reduce tobacco use.

At the committee hearing, health advocates released a new statewide survey showing that Maryland voters overwhelmingly support using tobacco settlement and tobacco tax revenue for programs to prevent kids from starting to smoke and help smokers quit.

The poll of 807 Maryland voters was released yesterday by the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association of Maryland and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The groups are working together to sustain and increase funding for the state's program to reduce tobacco use in Maryland.

Seven out of 10 (71 percent) Maryland voters favor using $63 million, the funding level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on tobacco prevention and cessation. Only 23 percent are opposed, and 6 percent have no opinion. Support for tobacco prevention comes from a broad base of Maryland voters. Strong majorities of voters from all regions of the state and all political parties favor full funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

"We can spend a little now or a lot later," said Senator McFadden. "Tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments we can make, even in difficult budget times. If we continue to invest in tobacco prevention now, we will not only reduce smoking and save lives, but also save far more money than we spend by reducing smoking-caused health care costs."

"It is only right to use funds derived from the harms of tobacco to adequately support programs that we know work to protect our kids from tobacco. The state collects $540 million per year in tobacco tax and tobacco settlement money -- surely a substantial part of this should be used to reduce tobacco-caused disease and death," said Bonita Pennino, the Government Relations Manager for the Mid-Atlantic Division of the American Cancer Society.

For ten years beginning in 2008, Maryland will receive more than $28 million per year in additional tobacco settlement payments on top of what the state already receives.

"This poll shows us that the vast majority of Marylanders support keeping the promise of the tobacco settlement by funding tobacco programs that prevent kids from starting to smoke and help smokers quit," said Steve Peregoy, Executive Director of the American Lung Association of Maryland. "If Maryland fails to keep this promise, the consequences will be dire -- more kids will start to smoke, more lives will be lost and taxpayers will foot the bill for higher tobacco-caused health care costs."

The poll was conducted by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies from February 23 - March 1, 2008. A total of 807 registered voters in Maryland who vote regularly were interviewed by telephone. The margin of error for this survey is +/-3.5 percent. .

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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