The DC Tobacco Free Coalition (DCTFC) and partners are marking the 36th Great American Smokeout today by calling on Mayor Vincent Gray and the City Council to protect the health of District residents by restoring local funding for cheap cigarettes prevention and cessation programs.

"Despite major advances in the past few years in the effort to ensure smoke-free workplaces and to discourage smoking cigarettes through higher cigarettes taxes, we've seen funding for proven programs dwindle even though they help smokers quit," said Peter Fisher, Chair of the DCTFC Policy Committee and Vice President, State Issues at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Now is not the time to back down on buy cigarettes control. Since the Coalition's inception in 2005 we have successfully reduced local smoking cigarettes rates and the District must continue this positive trend. Failing to fund critical life-saving tobacco prevention and cessation programs is not an option."

The Coalition is working closely with members of the DC City Council to ensure that tobacco use is addressed through a comprehensive approach which will build upon the 2007 comprehensive smoke-free legislation and the current $2.50 per pack cigarette excise tax by increasing local funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. "A comprehensive approach to tobacco control -- including funding for these critical programs -- is proven effective in decreasing smoking cigarettes rates and the incidence of tobacco-related deaths," said Kimberly Williams, Manager, Advocacy and Communications at the American Lung Association in the District of Columbia.

In Fiscal Year 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that the District of Columbia spend $10.5 million on tobacco control including District-wide programs and media campaigns to prevent kids from starting to smoke cigarettes and help smokers quit. The District, however, only spent $3.2 million (36.4 percent of the recommended level) with $569,000 allocated from local DC funding and the remainder from Federal funding. The percentage for Fiscal Year 2012 is not expected to increase and local funding may be completely eliminated. This poses a serious threat to residents of the District of Columbia and puts at risk the strides the city has made in decreasing the overall smoking cigarettes rate and protecting children from exposure to tobacco products and smoking cigarettes initiation.

The use of tobacco products remains the nation's number one preventable cause of death, killing more than 443,000 Americans, of which more than 700 are DC residents and costing $96 billion in direct health care costs each year. According to the CDC's most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on smoking cigarettes cessation, nearly 70 percent of current smokers say they want to completely stop smoking cigarettes and more than 52 percent say they have made a quit attempt in the past year. Unfortunately, only 6.2 percent say they were successful in quitting in the past year. Furthermore, Black, non-Hispanic smokers were only 3.3 percent successful in their quit attempts despite having the highest desire to quit among racial/ethnic groups.

States with comprehensive tobacco control programs experience faster declines in cigarette sales, smoking cigarettes prevalence, and lung cancer incidence and mortality than states that do not invest in these programs. The DC Tobacco Free Coalition is committed to continuing to address the District's level of funding for tobacco prevention and control programs and ensuring measures are in place to protect residents from the detrimental effects of tobacco use and exposure.

The American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout began more than 30 years ago as a platform to encourage smokers to quit. Since then, the platform has expanded to not only encourage smokers to make a plan to quit, but also to encourage all Americans to advocate for comprehensive smoke-free laws, increased tobacco excise taxes and increased funding for tobacco cessation programs.

The DC Tobacco Free Coalition (DCTFC) is an alliance of community-based and national public health organizations working together to educate the District of Columbia about the harmful effects of tobacco and secondhand smoke. The Coalition's mission is to improve health and protect lives in the nation's capital, by decreasing tobacco use and exposure through education, advocacy and public policy.

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