North Carolina -- State lawmakers cut millions of dollars from a program, which many agree is working to keep kids from smoking.
North Carolina gets $140-million each year from the 1998 tobacco settlement. A part of that money has been going to fund prevention and helping high school students quit.
Read here: NC Flunking In Educating Kids About Tobacco Prevention
News 2 investigated how this is affecting our kids.
The average age people start smoking is 12 ½.
Thanks to a mass media campaign that started in 2003, North Carolina has 53,000 fewer students who smoke cigarettes.
The campaign was based on painful personal stories of the consequences of tobacco use.
Click here to see the powerful ads: www.realityunfiltered.com
Because lawmakers did away with the tobacco prevention budget, your kids haven't seen those media messages since July, when the fiscal year started.
That money also funded a program in which high school students educated middle school students about the dangers of smoking.
Even on our college campuses, tobacco free programs were in place.
But now, no money means no prevention.
"We know that 1 in 5 deaths in North Carolina is related to tobacco and the cost in health care is above $2- billion to North Carolinians, so we definitely will pay for this on the back end with healthcare costs," said Mary Gillett, the Tobacco Prevention Coordinator for the Guilford Co. Department of Public Health.
According to Gillett, we lose 12,000 people to tobacco use every year in North Carolina.
Every year, we have 100,000 new kids entering 6th grade, an impressionable age, when kids tend to start smoking.
Gillett thinks that without these programs, we're going to see more teen smokers in North Carolina over time.
WFMY News 2