Los Angeles Times Examines Debate over Proposed Reductions in Funds for State’s Tobacco Control Program
The Los Angeles Times today examines California lawmakers' proposal to use tobacco tax revenue, the state's share of the national tobacco settlement and reductions in funds for the state's tobacco control program to balance an estimated $24 billion budget deficit -- plans that has received criticism from public health advocates. Gov. Gray Davis' (D) $99 billion fiscal year 2002-2003 budget proposal, which has stalled in the Assembly, would increase the state's cigarette tax by 63 cents to $1.50 per pack and would raise an additional $650 million per year for the state. In addition, the proposal would allow the state to sell California's $12.5 billion share of the tobacco settlement to investors for $4.5 billion, rather than receive the total settlement in installments.
Public health advocates have criticized the proposal, which would reduce funds for the state's anti-tobacco program by $46 million. Under the proposal, the state would spend $88.3 million on the state's tobacco control program in FY 2002-2003, down from about $134 million in FY 2001-2002, and funds for anti-tobacco advertisements would decrease to $21 million from $45 million. In addition, the proposal would eliminate a $20 million youth smoking prevention program. Davis spokesperson Steven Maviglio said, "If this is a question of funding more billboards and public service announcements, or making sure kids get health care this year, there is no argument. The bottom line is that we have done more to stop smoking among adults and prevent smoking among kids than any other state." However, Kurt Kleinschmidt, chair of the Tobacco Education and Research Committee, which advises the Department of Health Services, said that proposed reductions in funds for the state's tobacco control program could lead to increased health care costs. "It is definitely a huge step backward," he said (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 7/24).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.