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States misdirect tobacco money, study shows

Only part of the tobacco settlement money given to states are used to prevent smoking, advocacy groups report.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Just a fraction of the money that states received from tobacco settlements and taxes is being used to prevent smoking, advocacy groups reported in a study Wednesday.

The report, “A Broken Promise to Our Children,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association.

Some $551 million is allocated for tobacco-use prevention programs in the 2006 budget year, the study said. That pales in comparison with the $1.6 billion recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Vince Willmore, spokesman for the campaign.

Even that amount would represent a small part of the $21.3 billion available to states this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and state tobacco taxes.

Only Maine, Colorado, Delaware and Mississippi spend at least the minimum levels recommended by the CDC, the study said.

Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire South Carolina, Tennessee and the District of Columbia spend no state funds at all, the report found, while 30 other states fund at less than half of the recommended amount.

States sell tobacco-related funds to pay off budget shortfalls and use them for capital campaigns and construction projects, the report said.

States also get prevention money from the CDC. Averaging about $1 million per state, the total is nowhere near what the CDC recommends, said Dr. David Nelson, senior scientific adviser for the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

State minimums, based on population size and need, range from $7.3 million for Wyoming to more than $165 million for California.

Ballot initiatives forcing states to spend tobacco tax or settlement money on prevention programs could solve these shortfalls in the future, advocates said.

Colorado, which passed such an initiative as part of a tax increase in 2004, showed the biggest progress in this year’s report. The state’s prevention spending rose to $27 million from $4.3 million last year, Willmore said. The CDC minimum for Colorado is $24.6 million.

Montana and Oklahoma’s prevention spending improved thanks to similar initiatives, he said.

The tobacco industry said money from its $206 billion settlement with the states should be used for its agreed-upon purpose.

“There does seem to be something of a disconnect between how (states) are spending the money and what they said they needed it for,” said John Singleton, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.’s director of communications.

Philip Morris USA is encouraging states to fund youth smoking prevention and similar initiatives, spokeswoman Jennifer Golisch said.

The industry spends $15.4 billion marketing tobacco products, nearly 28 times the amount of state spending on tobacco prevention, the report said. Industry representatives declined to confirm or deny that number.