Judith Hiester: About amendment 35

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By an overwhelming majority, Coloradans voted for Amendment 35, the tobacco excise tax, because they wanted to save lives and protect their families and communities, especially children, from tobacco. About 4,000 Coloradans die every year from tobacco-related diseases and, from a Sept. 25 Steamboat Pilot & Today article, "proponents of (amendment 35) ... estimate that 30 children a day become addicted to cigarettes."

Voting for Amendment 35 was a critical first step, but more needs to be done to ensure future funding remains intact for tobacco prevention, education and cessation programs that protect children and help smokers quit. Throughout the years, the state of Colorado has cut tobacco education programs dramatically. Amendment 35 provides Colorado the opportunity to fund tobacco prevention programs at levels that we know will make a difference.

Gov. Bill Owens' plan for distribution of Amendment 35 dollars says nothing about funding tobacco prevention programs and ignores the will of the people. Amendment 35 should be implemented exactly as Colorado voters intended -- with 16 percent of all Amendment 35 tobacco excise tax dollars raised applied to a statewide tobacco prevention and education program.

The Boyd-Hagedorn plan to implement Amendment 35 is smart policy -- it honors the intention of the voters and will make immediate and important differences to Colorado health care today, while also ensuring the long-term stability of the programs it supports.

I encourage all who voted for Amendment 35 and all who care about the health and well-being of Colorado to take the next step. Ensure that policies made at the state Capitol are translated as Amendment 35 voters intended. Contact your congressmen and urge them to do as voters asked -- fund tobacco education and cessation programs.

Judith Hiester

Tobacco Prevention Program Coordinator, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

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