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Health Experts: Don’t Let WI Anti-Tobacco Efforts Go “Up in Smoke”

September 12, 2007

Madison, WI – Tobacco prevention pays off for Wisconsin, according to health experts who are calling on state lawmakers to fully fund anti-smoking efforts in the overdue state budget. University of Wisconsin Hospital nurse Eileen Statz works with the American Lung Association. She says most smokers want to quit, but some have a hard time finding the help they need, especially because of cuts to the program since its inception six years ago.

"There have been 40 community programs eliminated; 20 counties right now have no programs at all to help reduce smoking rates, because there’s no funding for those counties to continue their efforts."

Dr. Michael Fiore with the U.W. Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention says the costs of prevention are outweighed by the health and economic damage of tobacco use.

"It kills 7,000 of our residents every year, and it costs our economy more than $2 billion. It's really unequalled in terms of its costs to families and the state."

Statz says tobacco prevention funds also keep kids from starting smoking, and reduce the state's worse-than-average smoking rate for pregnant women. The Senate budget plan supported by Governor Doyle would put $31 million a year into prevention, the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. State Assembly critics say that spending increase is too much.

Rob Ferrett/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WI