OLYMPIA - July 11, 2000 - Washington state has received a $2.25 million grant to help battle tobacco use among young people, Attorney General Christine Gregoire and state Department of Health Secretary Mary Selecky announced today.
The grant, to be distributed in three $750,000 installments over three years, comes from the American Legacy Foundation, which was created under the terms of the 1998 settlement reached between 46 attorneys general and the tobacco industry.
Washington is one of 18 states that received grants announced by the foundation today, and is the recipient of one of the largest grant amounts awarded.
"This speaks very loudly about the potential Washington has to be one of the leaders in the fight against youth tobacco use," said Gregoire, one of the primary architects of the tobacco settlement and chair of the American Legacy Foundation’s board of directors.
"Our state has shown we are serious about fighting youth tobacco use, and the American Legacy Foundation has taken notice," agreed Selecky. "We will use this money to help kids see through the lies of tobacco advertising and make the right decision about tobacco use."
The grants will be used to expand and strengthen the organization known as Saving Ourselves from Unfiltered Lies (SOUL), a statewide youth movement against tobacco use formed at the first state Youth Tobacco Summit in October, 1999. The grant money will allow young people from throughout the state to develop and conduct a wide variety of media campaigns to combat tobacco use among their peers.
"Who’s better equipped to speak to young people about the dangers of smoking than young people themselves? Their voices are needed to adequately counter the multi-billion dollar advertising blitz tobacco companies have aimed at them for years," Gregoire said.
Gregoire and Selecky said that nationally 3,000 teens a day become addicted to tobacco and a third will die prematurely as a result of that decision. Of Washington high school seniors, 28.6 percent have smoked or are regular smokers. Among adult smokers, about 80 percent tried their first cigarette before their 18th birthday.
The American Legacy Foundation, created as part of the comprehensive settlement reached with the tobacco industry, oversees a sustained $1.45 billion nationwide public education campaign to fight tobacco use.
"When we settled with the tobacco companies, we won an unprecedented victory in this country’s long fight against tobacco use and the pain and suffering it causes. Now the real work is starting as we use the settlement funds to fight tobacco use," Gregoire said.
"The money from the foundation, combined with the money the state received in the settlement, will help build a solid foundation upon which to focus our efforts in reducing the painful and terrible price society pays for tobacco addiction," she said.
Under its terms, the grant is to be matched by state funds.
"As helpful as the grant is, it’s critical that we continue using money the state received from the tobacco settlement to battle teen tobacco addiction. Only then will we really begin saving lives," Gregoire said. "This grant money is to add to our state’s financial commitment, not to replace it."
Joining with the Department of Health in applying for the grant were the Teen Futures Media Network (affiliated with the University of Washington), the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the state’s nine Educational Service Districts, Washington DOC (Doctors Ought to Care), the American Lung Association of Washington, and the American Cancer Society.
Grants of between $150 and $10,000 will be used to form teams of youth "news makers," who will design and conduct a wide variety of media programs aimed at fighting tobacco use among young people. A state youth Tobacco Summit will be held at the end of the first year and regional summer institutes will be held so participating young people can develop media training programs for future participants.