Piedmont Triad, NC -- Some Triad parents are angry with our state elected officials for cutting funding to a successful state-wide tobacco prevention program.
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The parents, including the Guilford County Council of PTAs president, say they want state lawmakers to take a stand for their children and reverse the nearly $30-million-cuts for smoking prevention programs.
They are using the money to fill holes in the state's $2.5 billion budget-gap.
"We've got to send the right message," said Kelly Langston, the council of PTAs president. "We know this works, we know that we've lowered rates. We also know that more than 100,000 6th graders are starting smoking each year. I have a 6th grader; I don't want that to be my child. I don't want it to be anyone's child."
But what is most appalling to parents is that the money to the program was not even tax dollars.
It was from the 1998 tobacco settlement.
Langston and other parents say the money, spent on the prevention program, has a powerful impact on kids.
"I think the citizens need to pay attention to the fact that this is costing us money by reducing this budget. It's an economically poor decision," said Bob Strack, a parent who has also researched tobacco issues.
A graphic from the North Carolina Public Health Department shows about 20% of high school students were smokers between 2003 and 2009.
The graphic also notes while the state was funding teen smoking prevention programs numbers went from 7 points above the national average to about 3 points below it.
"These types of programs directly affect our children's health. Our family's health," said Corporal Jack Boyles with the Alamance County Sheriff's Department. "Losing funding for those types of things, I think, would be detrimental to our community."
Deputy Josh Hayes with the Burlington Police Department adds, "To me, no matter the amount, any amount of money spent on these kids and their health, any money spent of prevention, education is money well spent."
Law enforcement and parents say the cut is particularly painful because it comes at a time when tax revenue is shrinking and programs like dare are disappearing. They want lawmakers to reconsider their decision.