States Break Promises On Tobacco Suit Money
July 21, 1999
When 22 state attorneys general launched their cases against the tobacco industry, they said they would use the proceeds "to protect our children" from tobacco. Last November, the attorneys general won a partial victory with a total of $246 billion in settlements.
Now states seem to have found other targets for the money that are a lot more appealing than no-smoking campaigns.
- Of the nearly 170 tobacco-money bills acted on in state legislatures since the November settlement, only 27 included money for quit-smoking or smoking-prevention programs.
- Most states haven't directed a penny of their settlement moneys toward prevention.
- Rhode Island, instead, wants to use its $63 million first installment to balance the budget, while North Dakota is using its money to pay off water project bonds.
- Oklahoma wants to aim a big chunk at its teacher retirement fund, with Michigan's governor proposing to use the money for education scholarships.
Legislators contend that there is plenty of time to decide how the money should be used to discourage smoking, since states will not receive the first installment of the settlement until June 30, 2000.
Source: Editorial, "Blinded by Blizzard of Dollars, States Lose Sight of Suit's Goals," and William T. Pound (National Conference of State Legislatures), "No Need to Second-Guess States," both in USA Today, July 21, 1999.
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