July 12, 2013 at 6:24 AM
Washington’s Tobacco Program and Quitline
Program should not be defunded
While there were many losers in the Washington state budget battle [“Senators’ deadlock shutters Columbia Crossing,” NW Tuesday, July 2], one important casualty was Washington’s Tobacco Program and Quitline.
From 2000 to 2009, this nationally recognized program cut youth smoking in half and adult smoking by 25 percent, bringing the state to the third-lowest smoking rate in the United States. We’re now ranked 7th and falling fast.
Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death, costing our state $2 billion for smoking-related illnesses and productivity loss, yet every dollar spent on tobacco prevention saves five.
Private employers are also affected. Employing a smoker costs $6,000 more per year for health care and absenteeism.
Washington’s Quitline, nearly completely defunded by the new budget, provided free, lifesaving support to more than 170,000 smokers, helping them quit using tobacco and preventing heart attacks, strokes and cancers.
In 2012, Washington received $732 million in tobacco-related revenue. Under this budget, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of this will be used as intended, despite overwhelming voter support.
With skyrocketing health-care costs, often shouldered by state government, it makes no sense — economically or ethically — to defund this critical program.
Abigail Halperin, Seattle
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