Study Finds States Not Following CDC Guidelines for Spending Tobacco Settlement Funds
Although state governments are receiving billions of dollars from the national tobacco settlement, few states are spending the money on antitobacco programs at the levels recommended by the CDC, a study released yesterday found, the Wall Street Journal reports (Fairclough, Wall Street Journal, 1/16). The study, "Show Us the Money: An Update on the States' Allocation of the Tobacco Settlement Dollars," found that the "meager" amounts of funding that states have earmarked for tobacco prevention are "at risk" of being spent to cover budget shortfalls. Released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association, the study found that only Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Mississippi use their tobacco settlement money to fund antismoking programs at the CDC's recommended "minimum levels" (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids release, 1/15). The CDC has advised states to spend between 20% and 25% of their annual settlement funds on programs designed to "discourage tobacco use." However, the settlement does not dictate how states spend the money, and many are using the funds to cover budget shortfalls and projects ranging from road paving to college scholarships. Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and the District of Columbia have not appropriated any of their settlement dollars toward tobacco control, according to the study. The study found that 19 states are using a "substantial" amount of their settlement money -- at least half of the CDC's recommended minimum -- for antismoking programs and that 16 states have appropriated "modest" levels -- from 25% to 50% of the CDC's suggested minimum -- of their funding for tobacco prevention. Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "The states said they were suing to address an epidemic of tobacco use among our nation's kids. Now that they've actually got the money in their hands, they've failed to use it for its intended purpose" (Wall Street Journal, 1/16).
The study found that states with "comprehensive" antismoking efforts have reduced the level of tobacco use, reduced "smoking-caused" health care costs and "save[d] lives." For example, Oregon has cut smoking rates among 11th graders by 41% since 1996 and the smoking rate among Mississippi high school students has dropped by 25% since the state launched an antismoking program in 1999. William Corr, executive vice president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "States that have implemented [anti-tobacco] programs have dramatically cut smoking among both children and adults, reduced the incidence of lung cancer and heart disease, and saved millions of dollars in health care costs." However, the study found that diverting funds from tobacco control efforts can "quickly stall or reverse" any gains made in reducing tobacco use. For example, after California cut funding for antismoking programs in the mid-1990s, the state's progress reducing smoking rates stopped, resuming only after the funding was restored (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids release, 1/15). The study is available at http://tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements/2002/fullreport.pdf. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the study.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.