Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network represented
The state’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) was well represented in the hundreds of people who attended and testified at the recent Milwaukee Joint Committee on Finance Hearing held at the Wisconsin State Fair Park. Participants convened in Hall A of the Expo Center to weigh in on Governor Scott Walker’s proposed 2011-2013 state budget.
The proposed budget cuts funding for many programs, including the state’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP), which experienced a10 percent decrease to TPCP funding. The reduction came just a few months after Wisconsin earned a poor grade in the American Lung Association’s ninth annual State of Tobacco Control Report.” During the 2009 budget cycle, legislatures cut Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) funding by 55 percent, earning the state an “F” for Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending.
But despite funding challenges, the TPCP and the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network (WAATPN) remain optimistic and determined to save lives. “Without further reductions we will continue to be effective in educating communities and preventing youth access to cigarettes and other tobacco products,” said Lorraine Lathen, WAATPN project director.
To prevent the 10 percent cut from growing even larger during the budget approval process, the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network (WAATPN) and other tobacco prevention programs across the state prepared for the Joint Finance Committee’s four hearings by encouraging volunteers to write letters and to speak at the hearings.
“It felt very empowering,” said Angel Flemister, volunteer for the WAATPN. I wanted to get my point across to the committee that funding is needed to keep cigarettes and other tobacco products out of our children’s hands, and I think I did,” she said.
The WAATPN is fighting to maintain funding because like states across the nation, Wisconsin African Americans are profoundly impacted by tobacco use. One-third (33 percent) of Wisconsin’s African American population smokes cigarettes, compared to about one-fifth (20 percent) of the general population. And although African Americans tend to start smoking later in life, they are twice as likely as whites to die from a tobacco related illness.
The TPCP also encouraged youth to participate in the hearings. Approximately two-dozen Fighting Against Corporate Tobacco (FACT) members and young supporters from around the state spoke at the hearings.
“I spoke out because they are targeting my friends and me,” said Rajahnae Y. Smith, 15, Milwaukee FACT and WAATPN volunteer. We do a lot of work to help spread the word. If the program continues, we can keep educating our peers, and I can get my friends to join too.”
The Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Poverty Network and the Hispanic/Latina Tobacco Prevention Network also represented the state’s disparity networks at the hearing. The Wisconsin Native American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Asian American Tobacco Prevention Network of Wisconsin are the other two disparity networks. They participated in the hearing in Stevens Point. The disparity networks work to reduce tobacco use and mortality rates within ethic and impoverished communities.