Report: States use little tobacco settlement funds for related programs

Chris Rizo Dec. 10, 2009, 6:24am


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)—Although states are raking in billions of dollars in revenue this year from the 1998 tobacco multistate settlement, officials are spending a paltry amount on antismoking efforts, a national report says.

In fact, states have cut funding for programs to reduce tobacco use by more than 15 percent in the fiscal year that ended in September, the report by a coalition of public health organizations said Wednesday.

The report was drafted by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

It says states this year will collect $25.1 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but are spending just 2.3 percent of it, or $567.5 million, on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

"To continue reducing tobacco use, elected officials at all levels must resist complacency and redouble efforts to implement proven strategies," said Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, based in Washington.

"Despite their current budget challenges, the states lack excuses for failing to do more. They are collecting record amounts of tobacco money, more of which should be used to fight the tobacco problem," he added.

The report, titled "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 11 Years Later," said just one state — North Dakota — currently funds a tobacco prevention program at the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while just nine other states fund tobacco prevention at even half the CDC-recommended level.

The report said Texas spent $13.3 million on tobacco programs, or just 5 percent of the CDC recommendation, earning the state a ranking of 46th in the nation.

Meanwhile, tobacco companies spent $20 on marketing and advertising for every $1 that states spent on antismoking efforts, the report said.

The Master Settlement Agreement was reached in 1998 between tobacco companies and 46 states and six U.S. territories to settle lawsuits that states had filed to recover government costs associated with people who became ill from smoking or tobacco-related illnesses.

Because states are not required, under the terms of the settlement, to spend the money on antismoking programs, often state legislatures use the money for their general fund.

The National Conference of State Legislatures announced Wednesday that U.S. states had a cumulative budget gap of $145 billion this year amid historic declines in revenues.

"Even if the recession is over, state budgets are still in appalling condition and are going to be that way for quite a while," said Corina Eckl, the group's fiscal director. "For many states, revenue recovery is not even in the forecast."

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