Many Counties Not Spending Tobacco Settlement Funds on Health Care or Smoking Cessation Programs
The vast majority of funds received by California counties through the national tobacco settlement have been allocated toward budget items that are not related to health care or smoking cessation, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. Eighteen percent of the $1.2 billion that local governments have received so far has been spent on health programs, and 6% has gone to anti-smoking campaigns, according to data from the Tobacco Industry Monitoring Project, a "state-supported" program operating out of the University of Southern California. California expects to receive $21.4 billion over 25 years from the tobacco settlement, with half of that amount going to the state's 58 counties and the cities of San Diego, Los Angeles and San Jose. The state is allocating $401 million of the $475 million it will receive from the settlement in fiscal year 2001-2002 to health and anti-tobacco measures, with the remainder going to the general fund. Similarly, Los Angeles County has earmarked its entire $2.6 billion share of the settlement for smoking cessation programs.
But other financially "strapped" counties are using the funds for "various projects, including an animal shelter, road repairs, debt repayment or just to prop up general funds," the AP/Times reports. Paul Knepprath, vice president of government relations for the American Lung Association of California, said that county spending is "all over the map, which is what you expect from counties that have been strapped for cash for years." Merced County, for example, intends to use its $26 million share to construct an animal shelter and a new juvenile hall. Other counties, such as Tulare, have sold their tobacco payments for an "upfront sum" to be used on "capital projects." The CDC generally recommends that states use 20% of their tobacco funds on anti-tobacco programs. A survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures released earlier this year found that states were spending only 5% for such programs (Coleman, AP/Contra Costa Times, 11/12).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.