plan for Iowa's kids, Iowa's health, Iowa's future
of Attorney General Tom Miller on Gov. Tom Vilsack's Health Plan Including
a Comprehensive Tobacco Prevention Program.
Moines-- I am extremely pleased that Gov. Vilsack and
Dr. Gleason are proposing a health plan that includes a comprehensive
program to sharply reduce the terrible toll in Iowa of tobacco addiction,
disease, and death.
I strongly support the Governor's overall health program, which is a
marvelous effort to multiply our resources and prevent health problems.
It is completely fitting that the tobacco program is a major element
of the Governor's overall health plan aimed at prevention, good health,
and saving precious resources.
The $18.6 million tobacco program focuses heavily on kids, which is
absolutely right. Nine out of ten smokers started as children. A thousand
Iowa kids take up smoking every single month, and one-third of them
are doomed to premature death from tobacco-related disease. This is
a good and effective plan that will start solving that problem.
This tobacco prevention plan can save thousands of lives. It is a plan
for Iowa's youth, Iowa's health, Iowa's future.
It is crucial to have a comprehensive plan like this that works on many
fronts, because that is what is proving to succeed elsewhere. I might
have allocated the tobacco prevention categories a little differently,
and I would like to have had the entire plan paid from proceeds of our
tobacco lawsuit settlement, but I recognize the State's challenging
fiscal situation. Dr. Gleason and the Governor have been extremely diligent
and effective in finding creative alternative sources that multiply
the funds and bring the entire program to the magnitude recommended
for Iowa by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
This program has crucial elements I have advocated: increasing youth
and public awareness of the specific dangers of tobacco, making children
more resistant to starting use of tobacco, countering the misleading
tobacco advertising that surrounds us all, helping people of any age
quit, and enforcing laws designed to restrict youth access to tobacco.
This is a tobacco prevention program, because tobacco use is the leading
preventable cause of death in America. In Iowa, tobacco kills
almost 5,000 people a year - thirteen every day. We can reduce youth
smoking, help people quit, and save a thousand lives a year.
Iowa's smoking rate is 23.1%. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control indicate that 30.4% of Iowa 18- to 24-year-olds smoke, far over
the national rate of 24.8%, and tobacco usage by Iowa high school students
is even higher.
Over time, this plan can save huge amounts of money as well as countless
lives and untold hardship and heartache. It will help us reduce the
hundreds of millions of dollars we spend each year on medical costs,
health care coverage, lost worker productivity, and fires, for example.
This is a good case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of
This plan also can help us avoid losing $4 million in Federal substance
abuse block grant funds that are in jeopardy because Iowa retailers
are selling cigarettes illegally to teen-agers 36% of the time, according
to a random sample of hundreds of tobacco outlets conducted last year.
The good news is that we don't have to start from scratch to create
these programs. We have successful blue prints we can build upon from
California, Massachusetts, Florida and other states. Lawmakers need
not say, "We have no idea if this will work." It can work.
This is a life-and-death issue. I am elated that the Governor has placed
before us a plan that will save lives and benefit our children, taxpayers,
and everyone in Iowa.