SETTLEMENT: Few States Funding Anti-Smoking Programs
"Despite hailing their landmark settlement with tobacco companies as just the start of their war on smoking, many states are poised to renege on that pledge," according to a new report from the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids. "[P]rograms under serious consideration range from property tax relief in Connecticut to college scholarships in Michigan to upgrading the state morgue in North Dakota," the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the report, only four states are planning to fund anti-smoking programs "beyond a minimal level." And some 16 states are thinking of spending between nothing and 2% of their settlement on such programs. Overall, the report says it is likely that fewer than 10 states "will fund significant anti-smoking programs." Collectively the states will receive up to $10 billion annually from the settlement, which does not "dictate how states could spend the funds" (Levin, 4/29).
Free for All
Former FDA head David Kessler said, "The money ... was viewed as a windfall, and it has become a free-for-all." The Washington Post reports that state lawmakers are "skeptical about pouring millions into largely untried programs designed to cut smoking rates." However, the Post notes that even in Florida, where an aggressive anti-smoking program has been hailed as a major success, "the program has barely survived." University of California-San Francisco anti-tobacco activist Stanton Glantz said the battle over the Florida program is "a microcosm of fights that are going on all over the country." Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids echoed the hopes of other anti-tobacco activists that Congress would still mandate that a portion of the settlement go to anti-smoking programs, noting that the nation will lose "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dramatically drive down the number of people who start smoking and die from tobacco use" (Torry, 4/28). A full page ad in today's Washington Times from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids repeats that message, urging Congress to "use federal tobacco dollars for tobacco prevention." The message is signed by 25 organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society (4/29).