Every year, thousands of North Carolina youth begin using tobacco. However, since the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund began [supporting] youth tobacco-use prevention and cessation efforts in 2003, middle-school smoking rates have dropped by 51.6 percent and high-school rates by 30.4 percent. These are the lowest ever recorded in the state.
The HWTF is actually saving the state money in the long run by reducing healthcare expenses. A benefit-cost analysis of the HWTF [conducted by] Chenoweth and Associates in February 2011 proved that, for every dollar put into the initiative, an $8.35 benefit was earned as a result of the organization’s tobacco-prevention efforts. An estimated 42,064 teenagers have either quit or abstained from tobacco as a result of the initiative’s collective impact. It has helped thousands of people of all ages in our state quit tobacco altogether. More than 28,000 people have enrolled in QuitlineNC, the only free cessation resource for smokers in the entire state, funded largely by the HWTF.
The HWTF does not only deal with tobacco prevention. Other programs funded by the organization include obesity prevention and elimination of health disparities.
Recently, an N.C. House budget bill has devised a plan to abolish the HWTF and its funding by December. This would be detrimental to preventive health efforts and extremely counterproductive, given the HWTF’s proven track record of success. Let’s not reverse the progress we have made. Don't let North Carolina’s historically low youth-smoking rates go back up as they have in other states that reduced funding for tobacco-use prevention.
Please show your support by contacting your legislators and “liking” the Facebook page, “Save the TRU Movement.” You can also visit this link to sign a petition against the abolishment of the funding, at http://avl.mx/36.
— Erin Paly
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