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Program deserves share of settlement

To the editor: I read with great interest the recent article in the Central Oregonian by Tina Cary in Prairie City. She tragically lost her husband to the consequences of smokeless tobacco and now is devoting much of her time to getting the word out. She mentions Oregon’s Tobacco Prevention and Education Program which is funded by a portion of the tobacco excise tax. These programs are historically quite successful with a solid community impact. However, TPEP (Tobacco Prevention and Education Program) has some serious shortcomings. At the present time the school based programs reach only 1/3 of the school districts in Oregon. The grants to school districts are on a three year cycle with the amount of money decreasing during the second and third years. So the viability of this program depends largely on the state budget and the priorities of our Legislators. But help could be on the way. Our state has yet to decide how to allocate its share of funds from the 1998 multi-state tobacco settlement. Oregon’s share is about $94 million annually for at least 25 years. The original intent of the lawsuit was to address the tremendous costs of tobacco-related illness as well as to reduce these costs in the future. This can be accomplished through programs such as TPEP and it seems logical to devote a portion of these funds toward that end. At this time I understand our Legislators are dreaming up several ways of spending this largess other than for tobacco related concerns. I urge you to contact your Legislators and make them aware that you and most people would like to see at least a portion of these funds directed toward life-saving tobacco cessation programs. Denison M. Thomas Crook County Unit American Cancer Society