RICHMOND, Va., Feb. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new statewide survey released today shows that Virginia 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 500 Virginia voters was released today by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The groups reiterated the need to sustain and increase funding for the state's program to reduce tobacco use in Virginia.
Eight out of 10 (80 percent) Virginia voters believe funding for the state's tobacco prevention program should be more than or equal to the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Just 16 percent feel that funding for Virginia's tobacco prevention program should be below the CDC recommendation. Support for tobacco prevention comes from a broad base of Virginians.
"We can spend a little now or a lot later," said Delegate John O'Bannon (R - Henrico). "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."
Support for tobacco prevention funding is not surprising, given that 72 percent of Virginians said that the state should spend at least one-half of the funds it receives from the tobacco settlement and tobacco tax on programs to reduce tobacco use. Virginia collects about $300 million a year in revenue from the tobacco settlement and state tobacco taxes. It takes about one-third of this tobacco revenue to fund tobacco prevention at the level recommended by the CDC ($103 million dollars per year).
"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 $300 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 Senator Ralph Northam (D - Norfolk).
For ten years beginning in 2008, Virginia will receive more than $7 million per year in additional tobacco settlement payments on top of what the state already receives. By more than a two-to-one margin (65 percent to 29 percent) voters favor using all of these additional tobacco settlement payments to fund tobacco prevention programs.
Even after poll respondents were reminded of the state's budget problems, more than two-thirds (68 percent) agreed with the need to use one-third of Virginia's tobacco settlement and tobacco tax revenues to fund tobacco prevention at the CDC recommended level.
"This poll shows us that the vast majority of Virginians support keeping the promise of the tobacco settlement by funding tobacco programs that prevent kids from starting to smoke and help smokers quit," said Keenan Caldwell, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society. "If Virginia 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."
Despite progress made in reducing smoking, tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of death in Virginia, claiming at least 10,200 lives each year and costing the state more than $2.08 billion annually in health care bills, including $401 million in Medicaid payments alone. Smoking-caused government expenditures amount to a hidden tax of $576 per Virginia household. Currently, 21 percent of Virginia high school students smoke, and 10,800 additional kids become regular smokers every year.
For more information on the poll results, please visit http://stopyouthsmoking.com/poll.
The Mellman Group conducted a survey of 500 registered voters in Virginia, who were interviewed by telephone January 22-24, 2008. The margin of error for this survey is +/-4.4 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence. The margin of error is higher for subgroups.
|SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids|
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