Attorney General Hardy Myers today recommended steps to reduce death and illness due to tobacco. "Tobacco kills, yet children continue to become addicted," Myers said. "In today's report, I recommend actions to help unlock tobacco's death-grip on kids."
Myers based his report on hearings conducted by the Attorney General's Committee on Kids and Tobacco. Beginning in March 2000, the Committee conducted hearings in Portland, Salem, Eugene, Medford, Pendleton, and Bend. The Committee included representatives of law enforcement agencies, public health organizations, and retail store associations.
Surveys of children in grades 6 - 12 reveal that an estimated 50,000 of Oregon's children regularly smoke cigarettes. Approximately 90 percent of all adult smokers started when they were teens. Nationally, as many as five million children who now use tobacco will sicken and die prematurely as adults.
Myers said two recommendations in the report were essential. "First, comprehensive tobacco control programs should be the number one priority for expenditure of the Master Settlement Agreement funds. Second, the state government should not do anything to preempt local tobacco control initiatives."
Oregon currently spends about 30% of the per capita amount recommended by the federal government's Center for Disease Control for tobacco control programs. Myers recommended using funds from the proceeds of the lawsuit he and other Attorneys General brought against tobacco manufacturers to bring Oregon closer to the federally recommended amount of $5.46 per capita.
Many cities have enacted local tobacco-control ordinances. Myers said he would fight any effort by the Legislature to preempt local efforts.
Myers made his announcement on "Kick Butts Day," an annual event that aims to inform the public about the health consequences of using tobacco products. A complete copy of the report is available on line at the Department of Justice web site www.doj.state.or.us.
Kristen Grainger or Kevin Neely, (503) 378-6002