Anti-smoking Group Unveils Ad Campaign for Constitutional Amendment

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

Health advocates determined to keep kids from smoking are taking their battle to the airwaves. They’re hoping new TV and radio ads will convince you to vote for a constitutional amendment that would put millions of dollars into anti-tobacco campaigns, but some folks say that’s not what the Constitution is for.

Florida used to have one of the most successful anti-teen smoking campaigns in the nation, but the in-your-face ads offended state lawmakers who chopped funding for the program from $70 million a year to just $1 million.

Damien Filer represents a group of health advocates who decided to take the issue directly to voters.

He said, “You would think if you had a successful pilot program that didn’t require taxpayers’ money, that would save lives and save money, would be a no-brainer, that you would continue to fund it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.”

Floridians for Youth Tobacco Education is airing ads to get you to vote for Amendment 4, a constitutional amendment that requires lawmakers to spend 15 percent of the state’s tobacco settlement money on anti-teen smoking initiatives. That works out to $57 million next spring, adjusted for inflation every year after.

But Rick McAllister with the Florida Retail Federation says that’s not what the constitution is for. He’s part of a group pushing an amendment to make it harder to pass amendments.

“Certainly Amendment 4 does have some merit. The content is very important. The question is does it belong in the Constitution.”

But chances are good millions of voters will say yes. More than 70 percent gave the thumbs up four years ago to a constitutional amendment banning smoking in the workplace.

Statistics show nearly 300,000 teen smokers in Florida will eventually die from tobacco related illnesses. Health care costs attributed to smoking are estimated to cost Florida taxpayers nearly $6 billion a year.

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