Amendment Profile: # 4

In 1998, Florida began the Florida Youth Tobacco Control Program which spawned the “truth” commercials, funded with the proceeds of the settlement of the state’s lawsuit against tobacco companies. Media reports have shown that these edgy commercials have helped curb youth smoking. We at the State of Sunshine think they are great.

Over the years, for whatever reason, the funding for the program was cut so dramatically, from an average of $47 million down to $1 million each year, that supporters of the program feel it can not be as effective. After three years of failing to increase funding in the Florida Legislature, the supporters decided to go directly to the voters, requiring 15% of the settlement money – about $54 million – go to this program.

To protect people, especially youth, from addiction, disease, and other health hazards of using tobacco, the Legislature shall use some Tobacco Settlement money annually for a comprehensive statewide tobacco education and prevention program using Centers for Disease Control best practices. Specifies some program components, emphasizing youth, requiring one-third of total annual funding for advertising. Annual funding is 15% of 2005 Tobacco Settlement payments to Florida, adjusted annually for inflation. Provides definitions. Effective immediately. View Full Text (PDF)

This amendment is perhaps the best intentions of all on the ballot: preventing youth from smoking. The Legislature should be funding this program, but competing interests have winnowed away the funding. That is a shame.

However, putting this program directly into the Florida Constitution would be a bigger shame. Floridians for Youth Tobacco Education should do more to build grass roots support for their efforts and continue lobbying the legislature. That is where this fight belongs.

Therefore, the State of Sunshine recommends voting NO on Amendment 4.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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