How do you harm a cause while looking like you’re helping it? Consider Proposal 94 before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, which would recklessly strip away one-third of the funds used for the successful Tobacco Free Florida Program that prevents youth smoking.
Florida now has the lowest youth smoking rate in the country. That didn’t happen by accident – over the years, the state’s investment in tobacco prevention education has worked phenomenally well. If passed, Proposal 94 would eliminate a huge chunk of the funding for Tobacco Free Florida, squandering the historic $11 billion settlement Florida won from the tobacco industry in 1997. One of the real beauties of this whole thing is that the taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for the program to prevent kids from getting hooked – Big Tobacco is.
Proposal 94 is the brainchild of Jeanett Nuñez, a state representative from Miami-Dade who also serves on the Constitution Revision Commission. Her original version would have siphoned off one-third of the tobacco prevention funds to cancer research. It’s hard to argue against more money for cancer research, but not at the expense of prevention – if kids don’t take up smoking in the first place, there won’t be as big a cancer problem to research.
Three pretty smart groups on this topic – the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association – strongly oppose the proposal, just one example of widespread disapproval of the idea.
Just hours after those good-cause groups held a press conference against the proposal, joined by legendary Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who helped negotiate that historic settlement with Big Tobacco, Nuñez removed the section about cancer research funding. But the proposal still includes a reduction in prevention dollars for Tobacco Free Florida.
Why? If the proposal doesn’t divert funding for cancer research, then where will the funds be going? This switcheroo reeks about as bad as cigarette smoke.
In the news conference on Wednesday, Butterworth hit the nail on the head: “If the leading public health organizations in the country can’t support Proposal 94, then it’s most certainly a bad proposal,” he said.
Proposal 94 is a terribly misguided proposal that will increase smoking rates, tobacco-related illnesses, and health care costs for all of Florida. The prevention efforts of the Tobacco Free Florida program have clearly worked for years, and Proposal 94 would be a deadly step backward for Florida’s effort to keep kids healthy.
The Constitution Revision Commission, which convenes every 20 years, is set to vote on the proposal early next week.