ESD 112’s Prevent Coalition would like to thank Representative Paul Harris, of the 17th Legislative District in Vancouver, Washington, for his ongoing support of tobacco and vaping prevention funding.

“Representative Harris and his staff are key partners with Prevent Coalition in advocating for prevention-related policies in the Washington State Legislature,” said Jesse Jimenez, Project Coordinator with Prevent. “He has attended our annual Youth Advocacy Trainings for the past five years, serving as a role model to high school students in the Southwest Washington region, and sharing with them the importance of using their voice to advocate for issues they are passionate about.”

Securing sustainable funding for tobacco and vaping prevention plays a critical role in building healthier communities, achieving greater equity, and reducing known disparities. Representative Harris has been a longtime supporter of tobacco prevention funding, having previously championed Tobacco 21 Legislation, and sponsoring a Vapor Tax Reform Bill (HB 1676) that would have taken a portion of vapor tax revenue and invested it into prevention programs in communities throughout Washington State. It was announced last week that Representative Harris had successfully shepherded through a budget amendment for a $5 million-dollar one-time allocation to the Department of Health’s Commercial Tobacco Prevention Program (CTPP), which was just signed by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee as part of an allocation in the 2023 State Supplemental Operating Budget.

In response to the passing of the one-time allocation, Representative Harris said, “My message to youth is simple: stop smoking, stay healthy, and live longer. We want you to live a long and prosperous life and this is a great way to start that journey.”

Washington receives over $513 million in tobacco-related revenue but only invests $1.6 million in commercial tobacco prevention programs. This represents 2.4 percent of what the CDC recommends for a comprehensive and effective state tobacco program, which ranks Washington State 45th nationally in tobacco prevention spending.

Additional funding is also a matter of equity and necessary for reducing known disparities, as higher rates of tobacco and vaping use disproportionately affects communities most targeted by tobacco companies, including African Americans/Blacks, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Hispanics and Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders, veterans, people who identify as LGBTQ+, lower income individuals, and people with behavioral health concerns. Nationally, tobacco kills more than 480,000 people annually – more than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. For every person who dies from smoking, at least 30 more are suffering from serious smoking-caused disease and disability.

The American Heart Association (AHA) is another major partner in the push for increased tobacco prevention funding for programs.

“The American Heart Association is grateful to Representative Harris and the Washington State legislature for its investment to rebuild our state’s comprehensive commercial tobacco prevention and treatment program,” said Penny Lipsou, AHA Washington State Government Relations Director. “Community-based tobacco prevention and treatment programs are a proven method for keeping youth from starting to smoke and helping adult smokers to quit. This investment will save lives and money, while also helping to address tobacco-related health disparities.”

The newly approved $5 million funding will be directed to the Department of Health Commercial Tobacco Prevention Program, which will decide how to allocate the budget. The Prevent Coalition looks forward to supporting the efforts to restore evidence-based and equity-focused commercial tobacco prevention, education, and treatment services that will help to reduce smoking, vaping, nicotine dependence, and associated health disorders throughout the state of Washington.