Florida teenagers deserve the ‘Truth’

The “Truth” commercials may soon be a thing of the past if the Florida Legislature’s proposed budget cuts remain as they were initially proposed.This will, in the long run, hurt consumers, as they will not be as informed about the negative health effects of smoking.

The campaign, started with funds arising out of a 1997 lawsuit, required tobacco companies to give part of their proceeds to fund such campaigns as “Truth.” Now, the campaign is in jeopardy because of proposed budget cuts, which would cut the funding from a planned $39 million to $1 million.

This cut would be unjustifiable, as it guts the otherwise compelling campaign and defeats the ideas put forth by initial lawsuits to warn consumers of the dangers of smoking.

Steve Yerrid, a Tampa lawyer, filed a lawsuit last week to fight the budget cuts, but withdrew Wednesday after he was assured that funding would be restored.

In the lawsuit, Yerrid argued that the campaign has been effective so far and is now doomed for failure.

In an Associated Press interview he said “(The government has) effectively eliminated the program,” which now has a “zero chance of effectiveness.” He also claimed that the program has saved 26,000 lives because it informed consumers about a possibly lethal addiction.

While these numbers cannot be corroborated, there is little doubt that a teenager seeing a TV commercial describing the health problems caused by smoking may think about lighting up more than one who does not. It is, therefore, in the interest of teenagers that the TV commercials continue.

The proposed $1-million budget would mean that TV ads are impossible to finance, and the campaign would have to rely on public service announcements. This means of communication can hardly be considered as effective as commercials aired during shows aimed at teenage audiences.

The budget has yet to be signed into law, being left until the second special session hearing June 16.

Let’s hope that Gov. Jeb Bush will not leave the teenagers in a cloud of smoke and the budget will indeed be amended.