Children from across came to Tallahassee Friday in an effort save the nation's most successful teen anti-smoking program. They're pinning their hopes on a $39 million amendment to the state budget.
Eleven-year-old Michael Naughton brought a pile of letters to the Senate president's office Friday. The letters are from children begging lawmakers to restore $39 million to the Students Working Against Tobacco program.
Michael is a cancer survivor himself and he wants to keep other kids from going through what he went through
"Since most kids actually start smoking and drug use in their teen years, then if we can prevent that, we can prevent a little bit more of the cancer that happens."
The kids' pleas are mostly fallen on deaf ears. Only a handful of legislators are saying keeping kids from smoking should be one of Florida's highest priorities.
"I can tell you, cigarettes are weapons of mass destruction for the young people in our nation."
The kids even camped out in the governor's office until Toni Jennings agreed to see them. The governor has recommended about half the money the kids are hoping for, but even that's in jeopardy.
Jennings says, "What I'm trying to do is have the young people be realistic in their expectations, understand how important it is to lobby and get their recommendations across."
Preliminary results of a new public opinion poll show Florida citizens agree with the kids. Nearly seven out of 10 say at least half of the 400 million-plus in tobacco settlement money each year should got to fight smoking, but for reasons only they know.
Lawmakers seem determined to dismantle a program credited with reducing middle school smoking by 57 percent. Michael Naughton hopes lawmakers have a change of heart.
The House has set aside $16 million for the SWAT program. The two chambers will now have to negotiate a final number when they hammer out budget differences.