The N.C. Alliance for Health is making a push to restore state funding for tobacco prevention programs, releasing a poll Wednesday that shows a majority of voters support it.
The Public Opinion Strategies survey found 74 percent of likely 2012 voters want the state to continue spending $17 million a year on programs to prevent children from smoking and help smokers quit.
But when asked to balance the funding against the state’s tough budget situation, support fell to 60 percent, with 35 percent suggesting money from the tobacco settlement should help pay for other state programs and balance the budget, the poll showed.
“We can spend a little now or a lot later,” said Pam Seamans, executive director of the N.C. Alliance for Health. “Tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments we can make, even in difficult budget times. If we continue to invest in tobacco prevention now, we will not only reduce smoking and save lives, but also save more money than we spend by reducing smoking-caused health care costs.”
The poll was conducted a month ago and has a 4.4 percentage point margin of error. It was paid for by the alliance, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The money that pays for the smoking prevention programs faces extinction unless lawmakers take action in May to restore it in the state budget.
In prior years, the money came from the state’s tobacco settlement through the Health and Wellness Trust Fund. But Republican budget writers eliminated the trust fund last year and gave the money to the state Division of Public Health. But the budget only left the program enough money to operate until June 30, alliance officials said.
The poll showed that support for the program crossed party, ideological and geographical lines. About 80 percent said it was “important” to use the settlement money for prevention programs. In a political twist, 59 percent of those polled said they were more likely to vote for a state lawmaker who continued funding the tobacco prevention program.