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Gov. Gregoire celebrates 10th anniversary of landmark tobacco settlement

For Immediate Release: November 24, 2008

TUMWATER – Gov. Chris Gregoire today was joined by Attorney General Rob McKenna and state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky at Bush Middle school in Tumwater to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the national tobacco settlement. The state leaders spoke with the students about the dangers of tobacco use, and looked to the future for maintaining high caliber tobacco prevention and cessation programs in Washington state.

“So much dedication went into fighting the tobacco industry, and now ten years later we are seeing the results of that remarkable settlement,” said Gregoire. “In Washington state we have seen tremendous results — youth smoking is down by half and adult smoking is down 25 percent.”

As a national leader in tobacco prevention and control, Washington has used funds from the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) to establish a program to prevent kids from smoking and help adults quit. Washington has the sixth lowest smoking rate in the nation at 16.5 percent. Before the tobacco program began in 2000, our state was ranked 20th.

The number of youth who smoke in Washington state has also dropped dramatically. Since the program began there are about 65,000 fewer youth smoking. The smoking rate for 8th graders is 6 percent, about 15 percent of 10th graders smoke, and 20 percent of 12th graders smoke.

As attorney general, McKenna has maintained the state’s leadership role in the legal fight to reduce tobacco consumption and protect consumers. In his role as co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Tobacco Committee, McKenna coordinates the states’ work to force the tobacco companies to comply with the terms of the MSA. Enforcement efforts have included a lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco for violating a ban on cartoons in tobacco advertising.

Working with attorneys general from around the country, McKenna has obtained agreements with national tobacco retailers to employ effective methods to limit youth access. Legal agreements have been reached with most major gas station convenience store operators to require them to adopt rules to reduce sales of cigarettes to minors. Studies show that convenience stores have been a common way for minors to obtain cigarettes.

“We’re continuing to hold the tobacco companies accountable and to find new ways to keep cigarettes out of the hands of minors,” McKenna said. “Some kids have discovered that the Internet provides a handy way to get cigarettes without showing ID, so we’re working to close that loophole.”

In January, McKenna will request state legislation to address a remaining pocket of youth access, the Internet. Legislation drafted by his office prohibits the shipment of cigarettes purchased through the Internet or by mail to anyone other than licensed wholesalers or retailers.

As part of today’s middle school event, the Department of Health took pictures of kids for use in the new NoStankYou anti-tobacco ad campaign. The ads target kids age 12-17 with information about the dangers of tobacco use.

The state’s free Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW) was established using Master Settlement funds. It has received more than 105,000 calls since opening for business eight years ago this month. Adults who want to quit can also get information at www.quitline.com. For more information about the Department of Health’s youth tobacco prevention campaign please visit www.NoStankYou.com