Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

For immediate release -- Tuesday, April 17, 2001.
Contact Bob Brammer, 515-281-6699

Miller: State's Tobacco Prevention Program is Effective and Essential and Should be Extended Without Cuts

Sioux City -- Attorney General Tom Miller today told an audience of law enforcement officials, health professionals, community activists and youth that the state's tobacco prevention campaign is beginning to work but that the program would be jeopardized by cutting the budget.

Last year $9.3 million was appropriated for the state's comprehensive tobacco prevention program. In January, Miller urged the governor and legislature to allocate at least as much of the tobacco settlement money to the program next year. The federal Centers for Disease Control recommended Iowa spend more than $19 million on anti-smoking efforts.

The money comes from Iowa's $1.9 billion share of the settlement won by Miller and other Attorneys General to compensate states for their costs in caring for people who are sick or dying because of tobacco related disease. "It only makes sense to spend a sizeable share of that money for prevention so we can eventually end this terrible monetary and human cost to Iowans," Miller said.

"Our ongoing goal is to reduce the number of young people who become addicted to nicotine, and to reduce the tobacco-related death and disease that plague Iowans of all ages," Miller said. A thousand children take up tobacco every month in Iowa, and five thousand Iowans die premature deaths each year because of tobacco. Reducing this costly death toll is the rationale for the state program."

The State Program:
Miller said the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Program consists of three elements:

"Grass-roots" partnerships developed to play an active role in community tobacco prevention and control activities;
A counter-marketing media campaign designed with and featuring Iowa youth intended to raise awareness about the full range of dangers associated with tobacco and de-glamorize its use;
A full, fair and balanced law enforcement effort calculated to reduce teen access to tobacco by holding those accountable who supply tobacco to minors. The enforcement effort also includes sanctions against minors who use or possess tobacco.
Miller reported that community partnerships have been organized in ninety-five of Iowa's ninety-nine counties. Work is under way to establish partnerships in the remaining four counties. The community partnerships consist of local business, health, civic and law enforcement agencies, as well as concerned parents and youth. The partnerships organize and participate in programs to discourage youth smoking, assist pregnant women in quitting smoking and educate the general public as to the dangers of tobacco use.

The statewide counter-marketing campaign is in full swing. Ten different television commercials including two featuring Iowa youth are currently airing all across the state. In addition, the media campaign includes radio spots, billboards and newspaper ads. Web banner advertising and a counter-marketing web site are in development.

The enforcement prong of the effort is also well under way. To date, nearly two hundred local law enforcement agencies have contracted with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division to conduct compliance checks of tobacco licensees. As of April 4, 2001, 2,228 compliance checks had been submitted for reimbursement. Of those, 1,751 retailers were compliant and 477 retailers were non-compliant. This is non-compliance of 21.41 percent.

Prevention Works:
Miller contends the track record in other states demonstrates that spending money on tobacco prevention programs now will save money as well as lives in the future. "California was the first to start comprehensive programs, and, as a result, today spends less on treating tobacco caused diseases than New York, a state now with a much smaller population. Between 1995 and 1999, youth smoking in Massachusetts declined 15% while it increased 35% in the neighboring state of Rhode Island - a 50% difference. The main difference between the states is that Massachusetts has a comprehensive tobacco prevention program and Rhode Island does not. The Florida campaign lowered smoking among middle school children 40% over two years -- the biggest decline in the history of the country," Miller said.

"While the long-term economic advantage to reducing smoking is indisputable, this benefit pales in comparison to the savings in needless human suffering," said Miller. "If we take this opportunity to cut smoking in half, we can reduce the problem and address this emergency by saving the lives of 200,000 Americans and 2,500 Iowans each year. The benefits would be priceless," said Miller.

Activities In Woodbury County:
Miller had high praise for the local people working on the tobacco prevention program. The Woodbury County organization serves a population of more than 100,000 Iowans. The Woodbury County Partnership is implementing three research based programs: (1) the "Make Yours a Fresh Start Family" program focuses on pregnant women; (2) the TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use) program is a prevention effort directed towards teens; and (3) the Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) program concentrates on cessation and is directed towards teens who already smoke. In addition, the partnership is sponsoring a public awareness campaign featuring the art work of students in the community.

Local law enforcement officials have been very active. The Sioux City police and Woodbury County Sheriff's office have been conducting compliance checks around the county.

Miller also praised the youth involved in the program. "Youth have been involved in every aspect of the program," he said. "Their involvement is crucial to our success."

Miller presented a similar report to officials and advocates in Cedar Rapids on April 9, 2001.

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