A group of Juneau-Douglas High School students gathered at the state Capitol this morning to urge state legislators to maintain tobacco prevention funding.
Nine members of Teens Against Tobacco Use rallied on the Capitol steps with signs, an anti-smoking skit and cardboard cutouts of human figures representing tobacco-related deaths. The cutouts were then delivered to selected senators.
John Stinson, adult community coordinator of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, who led the students at the rally, said they are concerned about the Senate Finance Committee reducing state funding for tobacco prevention programs. Stinson said they chose to rally today because the committee is taking public testimony on budget issues.
Jerry Burnett, a finance committee staffer for Sen. Lyda Green, a Matanuska-Susitna Republican, said the version of the budget that passed the House included $6.6 million for tobacco prevention.
Burnett said a Senate Finance subcommittee opted to set tobacco prevention funding in the Senate version of the budget at about $2.5 million - the amount of money it now receives.
At the rally, the students - who also give anti-tobacco presentations at area schools - urged lawmakers to keep the funding at a higher level. They carried signs pointing out the harm of smoking and the amount of money the state must spend on health care relating to tobacco use.
"We want more money for the prevention of tobacco use so our friends and families can live a healthy lifestyle," said JDHS sophomore Mindy Roberts.
Stinson said maintaining prevention efforts now will lower health-care costs in the years to come by decreasing tobacco-related ailments.
"If we want to trim the budget in the future, let's do some prevention now," he said.