VT Public Policy

Image of VT Statehouse

Governor Makes Cut to Program Serving as Role Model for Results-Based Accountability: The Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont Says Tobacco Program Funding Should be Restored and Tobacco Tax Considered

The Governor’s proposal to cut prevention funding for the fiscal year 2016 Vermont’s Tobacco Control Program, on top of other recent cuts to the program, is the wrong way to address skyrocketing health care costs.

“If cost-containment is the state’s priority, than we shouldn’t be making cuts to the program that addresses the number one cause of preventable death,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Government Relations Director Jill Sudhoff-Guerin. Guerin said Vermont currently pays $348 million annually on tobacco-attributable health care costs an amount that has risen after previous cuts to the program.

The Tobacco Control Program is one of the few state programs that is currently evaluated yet the Governor’s budget would strip nearly $200,000 in funding from this effective program in fiscal year 2016.

Senior Director of Health Education and Public Policy for the American Lung Association, Rebecca Ryan, said, “Early investments in the state’s comprehensive tobacco control program helped cut the youth smoking rate in half. Unfortunately, tobacco control program funding has been reduced by 40% since fiscal year 2001 and the Governor’s budget proposes further cuts by eliminating the budget for the Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board. Tobacco use is a major driver of the state’s healthcare costs; in order to effectively reduce the cost of healthcare, the state needs to invest more, not less, in prevention.”

Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association, Tina Zuk said these cuts would come on top of $45,000 that was already rescinded this year and another $68,000 that was transferred from the program last year through budget adjustment.

Zuk added, “Cutting the program and stripping it of its evaluation funding makes no sense at a time when the Vermont Legislature and Administration have been calling for Results-Based Accountability. This program has been the role model. Evaluation is critical because it reduces smoking rates by focusing on best practices. This saves the state money by using state funds in a very, targeted manner.” The program and its evaluation was created by statute in 1998.

Coalition members said the legislature should consider a $1.25 increase in Vermont’s tobacco tax as it would reduce smoking, provide significant savings in health care spending and additional state revenue that would take the pressure off the Tobacco Control Program. Coalition polling shows 75% of voters support a $1.25 increase. The Coalition’s recommended increase would bring Vermont’s current tax to $4.00 and would:

  • Raise $14.59 million in revenue 
  • Save $85.88 million in long-term health costs
  • Prevent 2,000 kids from becoming smokers 
  • Encourage 2,500 current smokers to quit

2015 Public Policy Priorities:

For questions about current legislation, contact Rebecca Ryan, Senior Director, Health Education and Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Vermont.