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'Truth' Campaign Can Save Half a Million Lives, Billions of Dollars

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The truth youth anti-smoking campaign has the power to save hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in smoking related health care costs and productivity losses, according to the Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth, a group composed of every former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and Health and Human Services with the exception of Michael Leavitt; every former U.S. Surgeon General; and every former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicated that the medical care costs averted by the truth® campaign – due to prevention of smoking – were far greater than the costs of the campaign itself and found that for every dollar invested in truth®, it is estimated that society saved over $6.80. The study focused on the period of 2000–2002. During this period of time, the truth® campaign has been credited with reducing the number of children and teen smokers by 300,000.

We believe that if the truth® campaign continues for another five years (2009-2014) with similar effectiveness, there will be up to 500,000 fewer youth smokers with savings of up to $9.0 billion in future medical costs. 

The Commission based its analysis on the findings of the study presented in the May 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which found that the decrease in the number of youth who initiated smoking as a result of truth® during the period of 2000–2002 may result in averting up to $5.4 billion in future medical costs.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of young smokers will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases.  Since 80% of adult smokers began using tobacco products before the age of 18, the hundreds of thousands of children who opt not to smoke because of their exposure to truth® will almost certainly not become adult smokers. 

“Ending smoking by American children and teens is crucial to the health and cost of healthcare to our nation.  The truth® campaign provides a return on investment that would make the greediest corporate CEOs salivate.  The truth® campaign is one of the most effective investments in the history of public health,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Commission Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare who started the national anti-smoking campaign in 1978.  “truth® is the only national smoking prevention campaign not directed by the tobacco industry which exposes the tactics of the tobacco industry, the truth about addiction, and the health effects and social consequences of smoking.”

The American Legacy Foundation's life-saving truth® campaign is the largest national youth smoking prevention campaign and an extraordinary public health story.  The campaign is a national peer-to-peer intervention that works.  In its first two years, truth® was responsible for 22% of the overall decline in youth smoking—a decrease which represents approximately 300,000 fewer smokers.  Peer reviewed studies, both old and new, underscore that truth® can inoculate teens against tobacco addiction.  The truth® campaign's successes are unassailable.  

Investments in youth smoking prevention campaigns like truth® provide enormous returns by way of preventing the health care costs associated with smoking.  In these difficult economic times, we must remember that the cost savings for preventing people from starting to smoke and helping those who already smoke to quit, can have a major fiscal impact on both health care costs and the general economy. 

The Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth was formed to shine a spotlight on the continued need to fund truth, the only independent national youth counter marketing campaign with demonstrated results in keeping children and teens from smoking.  Among its efforts, the Commission is demanding that big tobacco companies continue financing the Public Education Fund under the Master Settlement Agreement reached with the states in 1998.  After March 2003, the tobacco companies (Phillip Morris (Altria), Brown and Williamson, R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard) were no longer required under the agreement to make annual payments to the Public Education Fund, which enables the American Legacy Foundation to conduct the truth campaign.  The payments are required only if the participating tobacco manufacturers control 99.05 percent of the cigarette market.  Although participating companies no longer meet that threshold, their market share remains well above 90 percent.  The Citizens' Commission also files amicus briefs in pending litigation against tobacco companies in order to bring to the attention of presiding judges the importance of funding truth? and ask that the judges include orders to fund the campaign as a remedy for tobacco company misconduct.

For more information on the Commission, visit its Web site at www.ProtectTheTruth.org.

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