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Consumer News Release

For immediate release -- Friday, January 7, 2000.
Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699

A Plan for Iowa's Kids, Iowa's health, Iowa's future

Statement of Attorney General Tom Miller on Gov. Tom Vilsack's Health Plan Including a Comprehensive Tobacco Prevention Program.

Des 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 cure.

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.

[End of statement.]