States Not Spending Tobacco Settlement for Prevention
While states are slated to receive $250 billion over 25 years as part of the national tobacco settlement, only about 8% of the initial payments are going toward antismoking campaigns, USA Today reports. In addition, only six states are spending the CDC's recommended "minimum" for "effective" antitobacco programs. As the settlement does not establish restrictions on how tobacco funds are spent, state legislatures across the country are considering a host of proposals, including college scholarship programs, tax cuts and "cleaning up strip mines." Michael Moore (D), the Mississippi attorney general who filed the first state suit against the tobacco industry, is now lobbying legislators in 30 states to fund antismoking programs. He said, "There's a disconnect. There are people making the decisions about the money who weren't involved in the litigation. They know very little about it, and they don't feel like they're part of the mission." For example, Michigan has not appropriated any settlement funds for antitobacco campaigns. Gov. John Engler's (R) spokesperson John Truscott said, "We figure that we've already paid for the cost associated with smoking through our general fund or other state budgets at the sacrifice of other programs. Now that this pot of money becomes available, we're putting it into programs (that were sacrificed)." Mississippi, Florida and Minnesota are spending "millions" on "edgy" television campaigns, youth groups and eduction to prevent teenage smoking. USA Today reports that these campaigns have been effective, as in Florida, where smoking rates among middle school students have dropped 40% and 18% among high school students (DeBarros, USA Today, 1/29).
In Maryland, funds from the tobacco settlement are being used to "buy out" farmers who agree to stop growing the crop "forever," the Washington Post reports. Yesterday, state agriculture officials distributed the first checks to tobacco farmers who said they would stop growing tobacco. Under the program, for ten years the state will pay farmers one dollar per pound in their average yield (McCaffrey, Washington Post, 1/30). The deadline for enrolling in the program is Feb. 22, and thus far two-thirds of the 961 eligible farmers have "indicated an interest." Maryland is the only state to use settlement funds to pay farmers to stop cultivating the crop. State officials estimate the buyout will "slash" the state's annual tobacco production (Wheeler, Baltimore Sun, 1/30).
Reviving a tradition that ended 50 years ago, R.J. Reynolds is offering "collectable cards" of the 50 U.S. states in packs of Doral cigarettes, the AP/Charlotte Observer reports. The cards do not include the Doral brand name or logo, but depict a "scenic photograph" on the front and offer a brief history and state motto on the back. In a marketing campaign dubbed "Celebrate America," R.J. Reynolds says the cards "promote loyalty" for a "value priced" brand of cigarettes. Antismoking groups, however, say the cards are designed to market cigarettes to youth. Paul Billings, a spokesperson for the American Lung Association, said, "It seems to me that R.J. Reynolds is once again trying to market cigarettes to children. It's despicable, but not surprising, unfortunately." John Banzhaf, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, said, "It's hard to believe that [R.J. Reynolds] can say with a straight face that they are not trying to attract kids." R.J. Reynolds, however, says the marketing campaign was developed after a survey of Doral smokers indicated an interest in 'collectibles.' Spokesperson Jan Smith said, "These collectible cards have no connection to youth smoking" (Chase, AP/Charlotte Observer, 1/30).
In other tobacco advertising news, during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, two "somber" antismoking commercials aired. Sponsored by the American Legacy Foundation, the two 30 second spots cost $2.3 million each to air during the Super Bowl. The first ad depicts a man speaking about his wife's death at 46 from smoking-related illness. The man says that he did not "realize that 23 was middle-aged," and then the commercial ends "Cigarettes don't care. We do." The second spot uses a synthesized voice to describe how the national tobacco settlement has changed the advertising practices of tobacco companies. The ad then cuts to man breathing with a respirator and speaking with an electronic voice box who says the companies have changed everything but "their deadly, addictive product." The ads will continue to air over the next few weeks during "more serious" television programs such as "Face the Nation," "Larry King Live" and "60 Minutes" (Srikameswaran, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/30).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.