LETTER: Overturning the Will of the People

By Beacon Staff

How is it that five members of the Montana Legislature can overturn the will of the people of Montana and the United States?

I am deeply disappointed that you voted to eliminate funding for the lifesaving Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program. I am outraged that you chose Corporate Tobacco over protecting Montana’s children. In 2002, an overwhelming majority (65 percent) of other Montanans, voted for Initiative 146 to ensure that money from the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) go to preventing children from ever starting to smoke and helping smokers to successfully quit. Montana joined 45 other states in November 1998 in signing the MSA, resolving a lawsuit seeking to enforce laws and recoup hundreds of millions of dollars the states spent on Medicaid-funded care for people suffering from tobacco-related illnesses.

Evidence shows that these programs work in Montana. In the past decade, tobacco use rates have dropped significantly in the state. Since 2001 usage rates have dropped 23.2 percent among adults and 46.5 percent among Montana’s youth. Despite this progress, tobacco use is still the leading preventable cause of death in Montana. Tobacco-related illnesses kill 1,400 Montanans annually and cost the state and taxpayers $277 million each year in health care related costs. Montana needs to continue and strengthen our efforts in helping adults stop tobacco use, and keep our children from ever starting.

The cost in lives and dollars each year is just too much for the state of Montana to bear. Now is not the time to divert funds from lifesaving programs that have proven results and are supported by an overwhelming number of Montana voters. Shame on you!

Please do the right thing and restore 100 percent of the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program funding, so that money can be used for what it was intended for – improving health and tobacco disease prevention. We elected you to be good stewards of our state funds – we didn’t elect you to randomly rob the MSA funds to balance your budget. Research on any type of prevention clearly shows that you get what you pay for. When you cut prevention/education, you get more addiction/abuse. Please don’t let this happen here.

Kari Gabriel

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