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Fact Check: Yes on 72 radio advertisement needs context

Sola Lawal, CU News Corps

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On Tuesday, Colorado residents will vote on Amendment 72, a ballot initiative supporting a $1.75 tax increase on cigarettes and a 22 percent increase of the manufacturer’s list price on tobacco products. The Campaign for a Healthy Colorado, which supports the amendment, recently released a radio ad making various claims about Coloradan tobacco users and how the ballot initiative would affect them.

The ad claims the following:

  • The fact is that 80 percent of smokers start as kids. The fact is, voting yes on 72 and raising cigarette taxes is the proven way to change this.
  • The fact is, thousands of Colorado kids will become smokers this year. The fact is, voting yes on 72 is the proven way to change this.
  • The fact is, cigarettes kill more than 5,000 Coloradans every year. The fact is, voting yes on 72 is the proven way to change this.

The smoking statistics are true, but the claims that the amendment will solve the smoking problem are overstated and do not account for a considerable demographic of smokers.

“The fact is that 80% of smokers start as kids.”

This is true. According to a 2012 report by the U.S. surgeon general more than 80 percent of adult smokers begin smoking by the time they’re 18 years old.

“The fact is thousands of Colorado kids will become smokers this year.”

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services released an underage daily smoker estimate based on a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health predicting that 2,400 kids (under 18) will become new daily smokers in Colorado this year. Therefore, this statement is true.

“The fact is cigarettes kill more than 5,000 Coloradans every year.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 5,100 adults in Colorado die from smoking each year, according to the 2014 report, Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs.

“The fact is voting yes on 72 is the proven way to change this.”

It is proven that raising cigarette prices is a more effective policy measure for reducing smoking behavior among youth, young adults, and persons of low socioeconomic status, compared to the general population.

In contrast, there was a lack of evidence about the impact of price on smoking behavior in persons with a dual diagnosis, heavy and/or long-term smokers and smokers who are not of a low socioeconomic status according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

Persons with a dual diagnosis are identified as “smokers who are diagnosed with mental health and/or non-nicotine substance abuse disorders who are disproportionately affected by tobacco dependence. In North America, five to 10 percent of the population has a diagnosable mental illness. Yet, they carry almost half the burden of Canadian and US tobacco consumption, smoking approximately 40 percent of all cigarettes consumed,” according to the NCBI.

“It will benefit those most affected by smoking—helping them to quit and accelerating research in Colorado to prevent and treat diseases like lung cancer, asthma and heart disease.

Campaign for a Healthy Colorado states that the money raised by this tax will total about $315 million a year. Those funds would be distributed to mitigate harm for smokers and prevent new smokers in Colorado.

Ultimately, the data cited in this ad is true. However, the ad becomes misleading when claiming voting yes on 72 is a proven way to change various data. There are some policies behind yes on 72 that have records of success, but do not account for heavy/long-term smokers, persons with a dual diagnosis, and people who are not of a low socioeconomic status.

Sola Lawal is a senior in the journalism department of the College of Media, Communication, and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder. She has served as a contributing writer for the media publication Verge Campus and interned for an international reporting group while studying abroad in Prague.

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Explanatory multimedia reporting from CU Boulder journalism students
Fact Check: Yes on 72 radio advertisement needs context