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Tobacco-prevention efforts short of funds

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The National Master Settlement agreement with the tobacco industry promised to be a landmark public-health event. Forty-six states would receive $246 billion over the first 25 years to address America’s greatest public health problem.

But the settlement included no requirements on how states must utilize the funds. The states promised the state attorneys general and concerned members of Congress that sufficient monies would be used for tobacco use prevention; that promise was terribly broken.

A national report, “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 11 Years Later,” issued by the Campaign for Smoke-Free Kids, the American Heart Association, and several other partner organizations outlines the miserable news: Only a small fraction of the state settlement funds are utilized for its expressed purpose.

Only one state, North Dakota, now funds tobacco-prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels, and only nine states fund at least 50 percent of the suggested amount. In fiscal year 2011, the states will collect more than $25 billion from the settlement and tobacco taxes ($8 billion and $17 billion respectively) and spend just 2 percent of it, or $518 million, on tobacco-control initiatives. It would only take $3.7 billion to fully fund tobacco programs in every state at CDC-recommended levels.

The states have cut tobacco-prevention funding by 28 percent in the past three years. Despite the fact Indiana is fifth highest among the states in adult smoking, the legislature has repeatedly reduced this funding. One of the highest-funded states a decade ago, the report ranked Indiana at 29th in tobacco-prevention funding. Although Indiana collects about $148 million from tobacco settlement revenue and $474 million from tobacco taxes yearly, only 1.9 percent of it, or $11.8 million, is allocated for tobacco-control programs. That’s only 15 percent of the CDC-recommended funding of $78.8 million a year. The governor’s proposed budget for the next biennium provides only $9.3 million a year for the state’s initiative. The downhill slide continues.

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