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Report: States misspending anti-smoking cash

/ Source: The Associated Press

Only three states — Maine, Delaware and Mississippi — are spending money on anti-smoking efforts at the minimum levels recommended by federal health officials, a coalition of public health groups said Thursday.

Altogether, the states have set aside $538 million for smoking prevention for fiscal 2005, which began in October and runs through September. That is just a third of the $1.6 billion minimum the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say should be spent nationwide, says the report. The CDC’s minimum funding recommendations for each state are based on population and other factors.

The states are expected to receive an estimated $7.1 billion this year from the tobacco industry through legal settlements they reached with cigarette makers in the late 1990s, according to the report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association.

The settlements were meant to help the states recoup the cost of treating sick smokers, and the states pledged to fund tobacco prevention programs.

Meanwhile, states in recent years have been raising cigarette taxes, and they are slated to get nearly $13 billion in tobacco tax revenues this year, the report says.

“The states are receiving more and more revenue related to tobacco but doing far too little to fund programs to reduce tobacco use, particularly among children,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “They’re using the money to fill short-term budget shortfalls, build roads and every other conceivable political purpose.”

States that have allocated no significant funding for tobacco prevention are: Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Tennessee, the report said. The District of Columbia also has not set aside money for that purpose, the report stated.