Less Tobacco Suit Money Goes to Stop Smoking
By Alex Sundby, Special to Stateline
States are spending fewer and fewer of the dollars they get from a 1998 settlement with the tobacco industry on smoking prevention, a new report shows.
Altogether, states allocated $538 million toward prevention programs for fiscal 2005, a decrease from $542.6 million a year earlier, according to the annual ranking of state spending by four anti-smoking groups. State funding to curb tobacco use peaked at $749.7 million in 2002, falling to $674.4 million in 2003.
The 1998 legal settlement involving four major tobacco companies was a windfall for states. In exchange for agreeing not to sue cigarette manufacturers to recover the public health care costs of treating smoking-related illnesses, states so far have reaped $37.5 billion in payments since 2000, according to the National Governors Association.
Many had expected states to use the money for anti-smoking and health care programs.
"There was not a spending pledge to do this, but there was certainly a big expectation that they were going to use some of this money for tobacco prevention, in our minds," said Peter Fisher, director of state issues for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Fisher's group released the report along with the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association.
The amount states are spending on prevention for 2005 is a third of what's recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report says. The CDC suggests each state set aside at least 25 percent of its settlement money for tobacco prevention programs. The report ranks the states by how much they invest in prevention compared to how much the CDC recommended for each state.
Maine ($14.2 million), Delaware ($9.3 million) and Mississippi ($20 million) top the state-by-state rankings in anti-smoking spending. They are the only states spending more than the CDC's minimum funding recommendation. Arkansas ($17.6 million) is $310,000 shy of meeting what CDC says it should be spending and is ranked fourth. Ohio ($53.3 million) rounds out the top five states.
Of the 45 states that spend their settlement money on prevention programs, Connecticut spends the least with $57,000. The CDC recommended that the state spend at least $21.24 million, according to the report. Five states Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Tennessee plus Washington, D.C., spend none of their settlement money on prevention programs.
The report lauds voters in Colorado ($4.3 million) and Oklahoma ($4.8 million) for passing initiatives Nov. 2 that raise cigarette taxes and dedicate some of the additional revenue for prevention programs. Voters in Montana ($2.5 million) also raised their cigarette tax on Election Day, but the money will go to health insurance and Medicaid programs, state buildings and the state's general fund.
In Alaska ($4.2 million), the Legislature approved a gradual cigarette tax hike between 2005 and 2007 that funnels a percentage toward prevention programs, according to the report.
Pamela M. Prah, Stateline.org Staff Writer, contributed to this report.