Jay Schuschke, tobacco prevention specialist with Havre Encourages Long-range Prevention Committee, helped train teenagers how to educate legislators on the importance of tobacco prevention.
As someone that works for HELP with the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Plan, Schuschke has, over the past five years, helped bring statewide tobacco use down to 16 percent, below the national average.
MTUPP has, for most of that time, worked with funding from the state’s cut of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
According to Schuschke, the state gets over $30 million every year, of which the state has decided to give 32 percent toward tobacco use prevention, carried out by MTUPP.
Now, with the statewide smoking ban in place and rates of smoking among adults and teens dropped significantly over the past decade, Schuschke said he worries the state may feel like their job is done and redistribute that money to other programs that need it.
“The part we’re worried about is that the budget is tight,” Schuschke said. “And other people have a lot of good reasons other projects need funding.”
But Schuschke warned that the problem is not simply gone, and that the project needs to be sustained.
reACT! plans anti-smoking programs, see page A3.