Since 1999, North Carolina has funded tobacco-prevention programs with money from the Master Settlement Agreement between 46 states and the tobacco industry. This money was intended to recover tobacco related health care costs and be spent on tobacco-prevention programs. Unfortunately, last year's budget terminated these programs as of June 30.
I recently visited the General Assembly as a volunteer with the American Heart Association to advocate for continued funding of these programs. Unfortunately, the budget passed by the House only dedicated $5.4 million to tobacco prevention. This is an astoundingly pathetic amount, especially considering that North Carolina received over $140 million in settlement money last year.
After Rep. Patsy Keever met with us, she decided to introduce an amendment to at least partially restore funding. I’d like to thank her as well as Rep. Susan Fisher, who voted for the amendment. Unfortunately, our third representative from Buncombe County, Tim Moffitt, voted against it.
I hope our senators will seriously consider the importance of investing in tobacco prevention in the upcoming senate budget. Youth smoking rates are the lowest in North Carolina history. We cannot afford to have more youth starting to smoke, more lives lost to tobacco and higher tobacco-related health care costs, which now total over $2.4 billion a year. We can choose to pay now, or later. Please urge our senators to save taxpayer dollars by using existing money from the MSA to fund tobacco-prevention programs that lower smoking rates and prevent further loss of life.
— Emily Storrow