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Don't Raid Tobacco Settlement Fund

September 30, 2016

 

State Funding Shortfall Should Not be Fixed by Breaking Promises to Our Kids to Fight Tobacco Use, Protect Health and Save Lives

 

Santa Fe, NM – September 30, 2016 – From 2011 to 2015, high school youth smoking rates in New

Mexico have fallen by more than 42% – from 19.9% to 11.4%, thanks in large part to tobacco prevention and education programs.

 

Leading health organizations including American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN),

American Lung Association, and American Heart Association don’t want to see a reversal of that progress. However, that’s exactly what is at stake as the legislature convenes a special session to balance the state budget.

 

In 1999, New Mexico lawmakers made a commitment to create a permanent fund supported by annual

tobacco settlement payments providing stable funding for programs that would reduce devastating tobacco related illnesses now and into the future. Now, lawmakers are discussing draining this fund to fill the current budget hole.

 

Javier Garcia, a tobacco prevention specialist with Families & Youth, Inc.'s SHOUT (Students Helping

Others Understand Tobacco) in Las Cruces, started working on tobacco prevention as a teenager. “I was a young advocate when the legislature made the decision to invest half of the tobacco settlement dollars in a healthier future for New Mexico,” said Garcia. “The funds that were promised will likely be dismantled – we have to remember where we came from and the reason these payments are made each year.”

 

Health advocates are urging lawmakers to protect funding for programs that have proven to prevent tobacco related disease.

 

“New Mexico spends only a quarter of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends on prevention and cessation programs, and we certainly don’t want to drop any lower,” said ACS CAN New Mexico Government Relations Director Sandra Adondakis. “Without this funding, we could expect smoking rates to rebound, as has happened in other states.”

 

Smoking costs New Mexico $844 million each year in direct health care costs. A $1 per pack increase in the tobacco tax would go a long way to not only reduce tobacco-related healthcare costs, but raise more revenue for New Mexico.

 

“New Mexicans need to rise up and tell their representatives at the Capitol in Santa Fe to keep hands off the tobacco settlement funds—those funds are meant for preventing tobacco use, especially among kids,” said Terry Huertaz, Executive Director of American Lung Association in New Mexico. “And lawmakers should seriously consider increasing the state tobacco tax to save lives, save healthcare costs and generate revenue.”

 

A $1 cigarette tax increase with an equivalent tax on other tobacco products would raise $33 million in

revenue annually, help reduce state health care costs by $6.2 million over five years, and save an estimated 5,100 lives.

 

“Now we are faced with a double-whammy,” said Erin O’Reilly Hackett, Government Relations Director

for the American Heart Association. “Not only did the Legislature fail to increase the tobacco tax, even with polling results showing 82 percent of New Mexicans thought it was a good idea, but now it wants to raid the tobacco settlement funds to plug what everyone saw coming—a hole in the state’s budget.”

 

About the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

 ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org .

 

About the American Lung Association in New Mexico

 The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit our website: Lung.org .

 

About the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

 The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Our vision: A future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco. Tobacco-Free Kids works to save lives by advocating for public policies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke. Learn more at www.tobaccofreekids.org .

 

About the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association

 The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association are devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHAUSA1, visit heart.org  or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook  and Twitter .

 

Families and Youth, Inc. (FYI)  has been the major provider of community-based services in Doña Ana for over 39 years; the agency has grown from a single-purpose entity to a full-service agency that provides a continuum of prevention, intervention and treatment services for children, adolescents and their families in Southern New Mexico. FYI's mission "to promote a safer and healthier community by focusing on families and children" has guided us in providing Doña Ana County residents with

comprehensive and coordinated tobacco program for the past twenty years. For more information about FYI, call us at 575-522-4004 or visit us online at http://www.fyinm.org .

 

Keres Consulting, Inc.  is a Native American-owned, New Mexico-based small business that cares about the impact of commercial tobacco in New Mexico’s tribal communities. It works to eliminate death and disease caused from commercials tobacco through commercial tobacco prevention, cessation and education in Native American communities throughout New Mexico.

 

 # # #

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Sandra Adondakis

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

Sandra.Adondakis@cancer.org

505 382-2280

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