- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

If money's so awfully tight in the Commonwealth of Virginia as Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner and others keep saying how come there's $27 million available to throw at anti-tobacco public-service announcements? Yes, Virginia, it's true. While Mr. Warner and his political allies argue it's necessary to raise taxes in order to provide funding for basic necessities such as roads and schools, there's still plenty in the kitty to fund an anti-smoking campaign with print, radio and even Internet coverage. The high-profile campaign, which began Wednesday, is aimed at teen-agers and includes such pithy observations as "Teens who smoke produce twice as much phlegm as those who don't," and "Girls who smoke are seven times as likely to get excess facial hair." There's also a splashy web site on the Internet www.whydoyouthink.com that touts the dangers of the evil weed.

Now, this is not to suggest that it's wise for teen-agers (or anyone else) to smoke. Or that it's a bad idea to discourage youngsters from picking up the tobacco habit. It isn't. The point here is not the anti-tobacco message, but the disingenuousness of politicians such as Mr. Warner. Clearly, there is money in the state treasury. It's just that Mr. Warner, et al., want more.

As has been the pattern so often in the past, Mr. Warner can't bear the thought of cutting back "essential" government programs and using the money saved to bankroll other things, such as the aforesaid roads and schools. He, like so many politicians, wants it all and wants taxpayers to foot the bill.

This is intolerable. In tight fiscal times, programs such as these anti-smoking ads simply do not merit top priority. They are a luxury that can be indulged only in times of abundance. That Mr. Warner and other state politicians would pursue their anti-tobacco crusade at the expense of transportation and education needs and advocate new and higher taxes at the same time is an indication of their priorities and of their mindset. Neither are praiseworthy.

"Who would have thought that the state of Virginia would spend $20 million" on an anti-smoking campaign, said a spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national advocacy group promoting the anti-smoking public service announcements.

Who, indeed?

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