Tobacco prevention spending has hit its lowest level since 1999. Nebraska is at the center of the funding cuts and those effects are trickling into the metro as the battle to keep kids from smoking heats up.
A handful of fifth-graders at St. Wenceslaus was finishing up the last of their DARE program on Wednesday. They've read through the course book and they've acted out skits, all part of preventing youth tobacco and other drug use.
“When you have that opportunity, like when someone asks you, you know, take a cigarette and how to say no and walk away from it,” said student Matthew Anderson.
The DARE program here is paid mostly through private money, but throughout the rest of the metro, youth tobacco prevention money comes through the $107 million collected from a decade-old tobacco settlement and a small amount from tobacco taxes. Of that, Nebraska spends just two cents of every dollar on prevention and now more of that money is getting cut.
In Nebraska, we'll see over $500,000 less in tobacco prevention funding. What that means for the metro is cutting over 300 ID compliance checks around the area.
Pride Omaha says that's one obstacle it will work around. “The nation's progress in reducing tobacco use is definitely at a risk, so anytime that we can partner within either our coalitions locally or outside partners, that's always a benefit,” said Pride Omaha’s Mary Crosby.
Crosby says Pride Omaha works within the Metro Area Tobacco Action Coalition to fight youth tobacco use. “A pound of prevention is worth an ounce of treatment."
The main goal of prevention is the earlier the better. “You just have to learn it when you are younger so you can make sure to understand it no matter what age,” said student Kelsey Hanna.
Next week, 95 fifth-graders from St. Wenceslaus will graduate from the DARE program. So far this year in the metro, about four-and-a-half percent of businesses failed ID compliance checks.
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