States' Tobacco Spend Falls in Ashtray

Only 3% of $244 billion collected in taxes, settlements earmarked for control efforts

Published in Tobacco E-News

By  Mitch Morrison, Vice President & Group Editor

WASHINGTON -- Remember the legendary Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), that great accord in which billions of cigarette taxes would flood into state coffers in a bid to stamp out underage smoking? Remember the heartfelt odes of more than a decade ago about the slate of new anti-smoking initiatives that would sing like carols against the sins of smoking?

Well, guess again. According to a report by the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), only 3% of the nearly $244 billion collected in cigarette taxes and settlement money has been earmarked for state tobacco control efforts.

The figure pales to the $29.2 billion the CDC said should have been spent over the period between 1998 and 2010.

In recent years, states have tapped tobacco funds to help shore up annual budget shortfalls and stabilize key departments from public works to education.

Nevertheless, several officials criticized the states for lack of sufficient appropriations into anti-smoking programs.

"Not investing in tobacco control," CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden told the Associated Press, "is not only penny wise and pound foolish, but it's also costing lives."

The CDC report is not surprising when reviewing numerous reports since the 1999 settlement. In 2000-2001, the nonpartisan federal General Accountability Office (GAO) found that the largest allocation of MSA funds went to state healthcare and economic development programs.

And other independent researchers and watchdog groups reported that by 2003 funding of tobacco-prevention programs had fallen to 3%, from 5% during 2000-2002, and that because of an economic downturn 36 states in 2003 were using tobacco revenue to support the general budget.

Indeed, in addressing the CDC report, one anti-tobacco activist predicts state-funded programs to decline further. "The states' investment in fighting tobacco use has gotten even worse in the past several years," Myers said in a statement available on the organization's website, www.tobaccofreekids.org.

"The states," he added, "have slashed funding for tobacco prevention programs by 36% in the past four years. In the current budget year (fiscal-year 2012), the states will collect $25.6 billion in tobacco revenue, but will spend less than 2% of it--$456.7 million--on tobacco prevention programs."

Click here to view the full CDC report.

Keywords: 
cigarettes
By Mitch Morrison, Vice President & Group Editor
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