Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

January 31, 2013

Editorial: No dismount wanted for boys gymnastics

(Continued)

The MIAA cites limited participation and the fact that the National Federation of State High School Associations will no longer write rules for boys gymnastics as the reason it will no longer recognize boys gymnastics. The MIAA doesn’t want the state level to have to write the rules. But why does someone even need to rewrite the rules each year? What really needs to change? Nothing, as far as we can see.

Let the meets continue. Let the boys have their longtime team. Not everyone excels at basketball, or drama or robotics. For some, gymnastics is the perfect extra-curricular activity.

There’s no reason to take it away.

Tobacco taxes go up in smoke, not into cessation

Andover was one of the first communities outside California to ban smoking in public places. The commitment to smoking cessation programs is very real here.

So many residents are likely to be disappointed -- if not exactly shocked -- to lear nthat the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom based at Boston University, has found that less than 1 percent of the tobacco money coming to Massachusetts is being used to support anti-smoking efforts. The rest — 99 percent — goes into the general fund.

Massachusetts got $254 million in tobacco settlement money in 2012 and raked in $561 million in tobacco taxes. Yet of that $815 million, the state will spend just $4.2 million in 2013 on smoking cessation and prevention programs, NECIR’s Beverly Ford reported in our sister paper, the Eagle-Tribune.

Ford reports Center for Disease Control figures that show more than 9,000 Massachusetts residents die annually from smoking-related diseases and yearly health care costs associated with treating tobacco-related illnesses in the state have risen to $3.9 billion. The CDC estimates that it would take $90 million to fully fund cessation and prevention efforts in Massachusetts. The $4.2 million the state is spending is just 4.6 percent of what’s needed to meet the CDC standard.

Lois Keithly, director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program, has seen her budget slashed by $50 million from a peak of $54.3 million in 2000.

Clearly, the government’s interest in tobacco taxes is not about getting smokers to quit. It’s about getting more money to spend.

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