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There's a silent scandal happening in our state capitol that needs attention. Three years ago, Alaska along with 45 other states sued the tobacco companies because of the tremendous harm caused by tobacco addiction. The state settled with the tobacco companies and that settlement generates over $25 million a year for Alaska. But that money doesn't come without a price, we gave up our right to ever again sue the tobacco companies for damages
The tobacco companies don't want the settlement to be spent on programs to prevent our kids from becoming addicted to tobacco because they need to ensure consumers for their product. That's the scandal. Guess what? They're getting their way! Most of the settlement money is being spent on everything but tobacco prevention. Even scarier, the money is in danger of being taken off the table forever to fund construction projects.
It's time for the governor and the Legislature to step up to the plate and do what's right. According to a recent poll conducted for Alaskans for Tobacco free Kids, 83 percent of Alaskans agree that the settlement money should be spent on a comprehensive, sustained tobacco prevention program to help smokers quit, and prevent Alaska's children from becoming addicted to tobacco. I for one am going to make sure my legislators know where I stand on the issue. I hope everyone else does, too.
Michelle K. Toohey
American Heart Association