MILTON — Tobacco Free Florida has helped thousands of Floridians breathe easier and now may do the same.
A proposal to eliminate funding minimums for TFF has been postponed after a recent Florida Constitution Revision Committee public hearing where the commission heard public input on the proposal.
The Florida CRC convenes every 20 years to consider changes to the Florida constitution.
Proposition 94 was one of the nearly 40 proposals discussed by at the February public hearing. The proposition, which would have been sent to the Nov. 6 General Election if it had passed, would have eliminated the partial funding for the state’s tobacco education and prevention program and add cancer research in its place.
The current funding for the program is $68.6 million this fiscal year — 15 percent of the annual appropriation. The constitution requires that one-third of this funding goes toward advertising. Under Proposition 94 — sponsored by Commissioner and Florida Rep. Jeanetter Nunez — the one-third requirement would be replaced with a cancer research program.
On March 29, TFF released a statement saying the CRC postponed the proposal, at least for the time being.
“We are pleased to announce that last week Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission elected not to move forward Proposal 94, which was a threat to tobacco prevention and education efforts in the state,” the letter said. “While the CRC could still technically revive the proposal before it adjourns in May, the proposal’s sponsor has publicly stated that she has no intent to pursue this matter further.”
The state constitution establishes TFF and requires advertising to discourage tobacco use and educate on the associated health risks; evidence-based curricula and programs to educate youth; community-based partnerships; enforcement of laws and policies against tobacco sales to minors; and publicly reported annual evaluations to ensure funds are spent appropriately.
According to the latest TFF report, the statewide smoking rate has decreased to 15.5 percent. However, Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties are higher than the state rate. Santa Rosa’s rate is 19.43 percent, while Escambia’s is 16.1 percent and Okaloosa’s is 17.35 percent.
“While we are thrilled with this important victory, it’s important to remember that the use of tobacco products remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death,” TFF said in a letter. “Programs like Tobacco Free Florida are essential to helping reduce tobacco-use rates as well as tobacco-related diseases and death.”
According to TFF, an estimated 32,300 Florida deaths are caused by smoking each year and 6,700 kids under 18 become new daily smokers.