States Step Up Spending To Fight Tobacco

 

Ever wonder how states are spending the millions of dollars pouring into their coffers from the $206 billion tobacco settlement? According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a lot of the money is funding programs to discourage smoking.

In a new report, NCSL says spending on these programs increased more than 400 percent in 35 state legislatures across the country. To find out what your state is doing, click onIn a new report, NCSL says spending on these programs increased more than 400 percent in 35 state legislatures across the country.

The report, which covered appropriations for fiscal years 2000 and 20001, found that $754 million had been put toward tobacco use prevention and smoking cessation programs. Before FY 2000, states had not appropriated more than $140 million of general revenue for tobacco use prevention.

Despite the record-breaking $145 billion verdict against the tobacco industry awarded Friday in a Florida class-action lawsuit brought by smokers, state legislators did not seem worried that tobacco payment money would cease to flow in the future.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia are to share in a $206 billion settlement of a separate lawsuit that sought to recover the public health costs of smoking-related illness. Four other states reached individual settlements with the tobacco industry.

"No one here has mentioned or expressed any kind of nervousness about the dependability of the tobacco money," Lee Dixon, director of NCSL's Health Policy Tracking Service and author of the report told Stateline.org .

Forty-four states were surveyed for the report, including the four that settled prior to the master settlement agreement reached in the fall of 1998 --Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas.

Six states have not yet decided what to do with tobacco settlement money. Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Oregon will let voters have a say in the matter this fall. Missouri and Pennsylvania will likely to defer their decision until the 2001 legislative session, the report said.

The report divides the $8.1 billion of appropriated tobacco money into nine categories: healthcare services, tobacco prevention, long-term care, research, education, child and adolescent programs, tobacco growers, budget reserves and other. Legislatures across the country enacted a total of 91 bills out of the 558 they considered.

Healthcare services, a catchall category for healthcare excluding smoking cessation and long-term care, saw 38 states earmarking more than $3.5 billion.

More specifically, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York and South Carolina all contributed sizeable amounts to increasing access to care. Washington put $153 million in an account reserved for the state's Basic Health Plan, insurance for the working poor who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but can't afford private insurance. New Jersey is spending $100 million on a Medicaid expansion program.

Other highlights include:

  • Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey all put money toward prescription drug price relief for the elderly.
  • Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan and Maryland funded cancer research with tobacco settlement money.
  • Alabama, Florida and Kentucky funded child and adolescent programs.
  • Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee and Maryland all allocated settlement funds to assist tobacco growers. Virginia is devoting 80 percent of its tobacco settlement dollars to help tobacco farmers.
  • Nevada is helping public broadcasting stations develop digital signals in return for their agreement to run tobacco prevention public service announcements.
  • Ohio is using $2 million for law enforcement.
  • North Dakota appropriated some of its funds for flood control projects.
  • Illinois used $315 million for property tax relief.
  • Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin put more than $220 million each into their respective general funds.
  • New Jersey is using $86 million for its state employee health program.
 
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