Many states who are receiving payments from the tobacco companies in settlement of a joint lawsuit are not using the additional cash to fund smoking prevention programs, say analyses already published.
According to reports received by Dr. DeWitt Williams, health director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, states are using these payments to fund such activities as road-building, water projects, and to reduce their general budget deficits.
“These reports are alarming since they run counter to the promises made when these suits were filed,” comments Williams. “The states said they were suing to gain funds to reduce tobacco use, particularly among the young. It’s disturbing to read that of the 30 states receiving tobacco settlement money this year, only eight are implementing full smoking cessation programs as defined by the Center for Disease Control.”
A report by the organization “Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids” noted that the total settlement amount was $246 billion, but that “far too many states have failed to live up to the promise to protect our nation’s children from tobacco.”
The report concluded: “If current trends continue the only winners will be the tobacco companies, which will be able to conduct business as usual. The losers will be America’s children, who will continue to fall prey to tobacco industry marketing, and the American taxpayers, who will continue to bear the unnecessary costs of sick and dying smokers.”
Williams says that states must be encouraged to use these funds to help smokers quit and to fund prevention programs.
“It’s high time we got serious about using these funds for the purposes promised: to reduce the numbers of those smoking. With more than 400,000 dying in the United States every year from smoking-related causes, we should be spending every penny of the settlement payments to reduce this appalling cost of human misery.”
Seventh-day Adventists have consistently promoted a smoke-free lifestyle and continue to provide smoking cessation programs in many communities.