September 28, 2009 - Today, September 23rd Investing in Tobacco-Free Youth Coalition warned lawmakers about a series of recent events that puts Ohio’s kids in danger of becoming the next generation of smokers: All state funding for tobacco-prevention and cessation programming will be cut next fiscal year, new tobacco products that are kid-friendly and easy to conceal are being test-marketed in Ohio anf Statistics rank Ohio worst for underage sales of tobacco to minors.
Though a line item for tobacco-prevention and cessation in the state budget shows $6 million for the second fiscal year (July 1, 2010-June 30, 2011), the administration has stated that they will not appropriate the money. The money has been designated for other purposes. Therefore, after June 30, 2010, all state-funded tobacco control services, including the Quitline, tobacco-prevention and cessation grants, and even enforcement of the Smoke-free Workplace Act, will cease to exist.
“Tobacco has a terrible impact on minority communities such as Asian Americans. We were helping to offset this impact with the state grant we received which supported our successful Asian American Youth Against Tobacco program. But with state funding cuts, we lost our grant, and now the people we serve are at risk,” said Michael Byun, executive director, Asian Services in Action, Inc. “We need continued funding to help vulnerable populations, like children, and populations that are specifically targeted by big tobacco, like minorities.”
In the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) recently released Annual Synar Report of Youth Tobacco Sales, Ohio ranked worst of all 50 states in rates of sales of tobacco to youth. While the national average of sales to minors is 9.9 percent, Ohio’s rate was 17 percent.
“We are privileged to receive state grant money right now so that we can provide some tobacco prevention and cessation services to our community. However, because of reduced funds we no longer have stand youth prevention teams that, among other things, used to check on retail establishments to make sure they weren’t selling tobacco to kids,” said Bruce Barcelo, program coordinator, Greene County Combined Health District. “Our cessation classes have waiting lists that are twice as large as the class. We can’t meet the need with current funding. Further cuts would be devastating to the people we serve.”
Ohio’s situation—no prevention programs and tobacco easier to purchase than average—leaves our children vulnerable to new products like the ones being test-marketed in Columbus. In the last month, Camel has released Camel Strips and Sticks. The Strips are mint-flavored and made to dissolve on your tongue, similar to a Listerine Breathstrip. The Sticks are thin and stick-shaped products that you place in your mouth and let dissolve. They come at a time when cookie and candy manufacturers are creating such products as Oreo Fun Stix, Crunch Stixx, and Butterfinger Stixx. Camel has been promoting these products through multiple mailings to Ohio residents for free products and “Buy One Get One Free” coupons in magazines to Ohio subscribers. In fact, tobacco manufacturers spend over $1.5 million a day marketing their products in Ohio alone.
On Tuesday, September 22nd flavoring in cigarettes became illegal because of legislation that was passed giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco. This legislation does not, however, cover non-cigarette products like the new dissolvable tobacco, nor does it cover cigars, little cigars, smokeless, hookah or pipe tobacco. These products are often blatantly kid-friendly with bright-colored packaging and flavors like watermelon, bubble gum and cherry. Use of these products is growing while use of cigarettes is on the decline.
To help Ohio’s children and counteract this perfect storm of pressure to use tobacco, the Coalition is asking Ohio’s lawmakers to equalize the tax on other tobacco products (OTP), which includes all non-cigarette forms of tobacco, and use the revenue to fund tobacco-prevention and cessation programs. By raising the cigarette tax in 2003 and 2005 without raising the OTP tax, lawmakers created a loophole, making the OTP tax less than half the cigarette tax. Just by closing the loophole, the state can fund important tobacco-prevention and cessation programs, while reducing youth users of these products by 25 percent.
“Fortunately, an easy and popular solution can solve both problems. Tax all tobacco at the same rate and use the revenue to fund programs that help kids avoid tobacco and help addicted users quit,” said Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio and co-chair of the Investing in Tobacco-Free Youth Coalition. “Polls show that 73 percent of likely voters in Ohio support the plan. It just makes sense.”
Unfortunately the Ohio governor, Ted Strickland opposes raising taxes on tobacco products at this time, spokeswoman Amanda Wurst said. Nor is the governor sympathetic to the call to put more money into anti-tobacco programs. (Ohio - don't cut spending on anti-tobacco programs it will cost the state much more in the long run..)
The Investing in Tobacco-Free Youth Coalition is dedicated to reducing the problem of non-cigarette tobacco products, called “other tobacco products,” use by Ohioans, especially our youth. The campaign is a coalition of over 60 businesses and health organizations including the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Association of Ohio Health Commissioners, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Children’s Defense Fund, Cleveland Clinic, OhioHealth, Ohio State Medical Association, Tobacco Public Policy Center and Universal Healthcare Action Network (UHCAN) Ohio.
Asian Services In Action, Inc. is a community-based nonprofit organization based in Akron and Cleveland. The agency’s mission is to provide Asian American Pacific Islanders in Northeastern Ohio access to quality, culturally, and language appropriate information and services.
The Greene County Combined Health District is the lead agency for the Tobacco-Free Healthy Community Coalition which serves Greene, Clark, Champaign, Madison, Fayette, Clinton, Warren, Butler, Miami, Highland, Clermont, Adams and Brown counties.
Reference: Youth Tobacco Prevention Coalition Warns of New Threats to Kids, Press Release, Ohio-Tobacco-Free Youth Coalition, 9/23/2009.
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