American Lung Association Report Finds States Using Settlement Money for Budget Deficits
Most states are using their tobacco settlement money to fund "only a fraction" of what federal officials recommend for tobacco prevention and cessation programs and instead are using the settlement to cover budget deficits, according to a new report from the American Lung Association, the AP/Arizona Republic reports. Under the settlement, tobacco companies agreed to pay $206 billion over 25 years to 46 states to settle lawsuits; four states later settled on their own for a total of $40 billion (McClam, AP/Arizona Republic, 1/7). Although the settlement allows states to use the money as they see fit, anti-smoking advocates had hoped states would use the money to reduce smoking rates (California Healthline, 10/3/02). In the first annual "American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2002" report, the group gave 32 states and the District of Columbia a grade of "F" for spending on anti-tobacco programs. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia received an "F" in smoke-free air laws, 17 received "Fs" for tobacco taxes and 28 received "F"s for laws intended to limit youth access to tobacco. Four states -- California, Maine, New York and Rhode Island -- scored "A" grades in two categories (American Lung Association release, 1/7). Only six states earned "A" grades overall (AP/Arizona Republic, 1/7).
John Kirkwood, the association's chief executive, said states "are raiding tobacco funds to cover budget shortfalls and denying themselves a sound investment in their citizens' health." However, Joan Henneberry, director of health policy for the National Governors Association, said, "States are in such a bad financial position now, if they don't tap into other sources, they're going to have to cut benefits and eligibility in Medicaid. That doesn't help with anti-smoking efforts either" (AP/Arizona Republic, 1/7). The report is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.