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WASHINGTON -- Just days after tobacco giant Philip Morris Cos. blasted state lawmakers across the United States for misusing settlement funds stemming from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, a new report backs the New York-based cigarette maker's claims.
After reaching $246 billion in legal settlements with the tobacco industry nearly three years ago, most states are failing to keep their promise to use a significant portion of their settlement proceeds to fund tobacco prevention programs, and even the meager amounts allocated for prevention are at risk as state legislatures convene to address budget shortfalls, according to a report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.
The report, titled "Show Us the Money: An Update on the States' Allocation of the Tobacco Settlement Dollars," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association,
American Cancer Society and American Lung Association.
"Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments that governors and state legislators across the country can make," the
report concludes, calling efforts to cut tobacco prevention "penny-wise and pound-foolish."
The report points out that California and Massachusetts, with the most established tobacco
prevention programs, are saving as much as $3 in smoking-caused health care costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention.
"We have conclusive evidence that tobacco prevention works. States that have implemented such programs have dramatically cut smoking among both children and adults," said William Corr, executive vice president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "All of these benefits will be lost if the states do not live up to their promise to fund tobacco prevention programs."
The report found that only five states Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi and Minnesota currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of states fund tobacco prevention at less than half the CDC
Despite the small amounts committed to tobacco prevention, some states are using settlement funds, including funds previously committed to tobacco prevention, to balance their budgets, according to the report.