WASHINGTONOnly five states have allocated the minimum amount of their tobacco settlement funds recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for comprehensive tobacco prevention programs, according to report released at a Senate hearing.
Two years ago, 46 states and the District of Columbia reached an agreement with the major tobacco companies to settle the states lawsuits against the industry. Payments from the tobacco companies are expected to total about $206 billion over 25 years.
Four other statesFlorida, Mississippi, Texas, and Minnesotahave reached separate agreements with the industry totaling about $40 billion.
The CDC has recommended that the states use 20% to 25% of their settlement funds for antitobacco programs. It also suggested a low minimum funding level for each state, which it regards as the least amount necessary for the state to conduct an effective and comprehensive campaign.
Too often, the states are not living up to their promise to spend the tobacco settlement money to reduce the death toll from tobacco, the report charged.
Show Us the Money
Titled Show Us the Money: An Update on the States Allocation of Tobacco Settlement Dollars, the report was sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association. It was presented at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew L. Myers.
The need for comprehensive, effective tobacco prevention programs has never been greater because youth smoking rates remain at near-record levels and tobacco company promotional efforts that directly affect children continue to rise, Mr. Myers said. Although the settlement has eliminated or reduced some types of advertising, like billboards, the tobacco companies are always finding new and creative ways to reach our kids.
According to the report, Virtually every state legislature has now had the opportunity to make at least an initial decision about how to spend the billions of dollars that they are receiving from the tobacco companies. However, the results have fallen short of the hopes of many antismoking advocates.
Fifteen states made what the report calls substantial new commitments in 1999 and 2000 to fund tobacco prevention and cessation. Of these, only fiveIndiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Mississippiallotted the minimum amount recommended by CDC for such programs.
Eleven states have committed modest amounts, less than 50% of the minimum recommended by CDC.
Fourteen states have made a minimal financial commitment, less than 25% of the minimum dollar amount recommended.
Three statesCalifornia, North Dakota, and Michigancommitted none of their settlement funds to tobacco programs. However, California has a comprehensive prevention and cessation effort that is funded by state tobacco tax revenues.
North Carolina placed its settlement money into a trust fund that could be used to finance tobacco prevention programs but is not required to do so.
Legislators in six states and the District of Columbia have made no determination yet on how to allocate their settlement funds.
The tobacco settlement has resulted in increased money being spent at the state level on tobacco prevention and cessation, but the numbers are woefully short of what the CDC has concluded represents the absolute minimum necessary to fund a truly effective, sustained comprehensive program, the report said. The states uneven funding levels are inconsistent with the magnitude of the disease and death caused by tobacco use.