EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – When it comes to young people and smoking, some people say they numbers just don’t add up.
Massachusetts received $882-million from tobacco tax revenue and settlement money, yet this year, they will only spend $3.9-million of that on prevention. The Centers for Disease Control recommends Massachusetts spend about $67-million to help people quit smoking.
Ruth Ever is the coordinator for Easthampton’s Healthy Youth Coalition. “It’s actually really tragic because a number of years ago we had the tobacco settlement money which brought it tens of millions of dollars into the state and the prevention people were really excited. It lasted for a little while and then when budget problems started happening they kept taking they money out of those funds and there’s almost nothing in it now,” said Ever.
At Easthampton High School, a piece of land used to be known as the smoker’s corner until students from the high school were influential in getting smoking band on the property, but you can still find cigarette butts that litter the ground.
22News spoke with one Easthampton high school student who smokes about how he got started. “Peer pressure from a couple of kids that I used hang out with and I just thought to be part of the crowd and stuff and ever since then I just haven’t been able to put one down and it kind of sucks,” said Kevin Ranney.
“There’s definitely peer pressure but it’s more on the T.V.’s. It’s everywhere. It’s not just our friends, it’s media,” Rikki Mers of Brattleboro.
Tabacco companies spend $18 in marketing tobacco products for every $1 the states spend to prevent it. Here in Massachusetts, nearly 11% of high school students are smokers. Smoking kills about 9,300 people in Massachusetts every year.