5-year plan unveiled to curb tobacco use in Montana
HELENA (AP) - An advisory group Tuesday outlined a five-year plan for discouraging Montanans from using tobacco and helping those who do smoke or chew to break the habits.
The blueprint is a major step toward deciding how the state will spend some of the $922 million Montana expects to receive by 2025 as its share of a multistate settlement with the tobacco industry.
The plan includes toughening laws on clean indoor air and access to tobacco products, as well as developing special programs targeting American Indians, women who may become pregnant and chewing-tobacco users.
"We want to make all Montanans aware that tobacco use has created a public health crisis that calls for action," said Linda Lee of Missoula, chairwoman of the Governor's Advisory Council on Tobacco Use Prevention.
She said the Medicaid program in Montana, which provides health care for the poor, spends $12 million a year on tobacco-related illnesses. Federal estimates indicate that total smoking-related expenses for all Montanans is $102 million a y.
The 1999 Legislature provided $7 million to spend on tobacco-use prevention and reduction programs in this two-year budget period. The first two payments received by the state - the second of which arrived in January - total $20.5 million.
Lee said the plan includes statewide, community and school programs.
The plan has six general goals:
Start an advertising campaign to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondary cigarette smoke.
Enact and toughen indoor clean air policies in public places.
Create tobacco-free school and tobacco-use prevention education programs in schools.
Provide programs to help school employees and students stop using tobacco and promote community programs that encourage the general public to stop.
Supply funding for tobacco-use prevention and education projects in every county.
Develop special programs for Indian tribes, women of child-bearing age and those who use chewing tobacco.
"The plan assures that the tobacco settlement money will be used to develop a comprehensive, long-term tobacco prevention program in Montana," Lee said. "Considering that tobacco claims more lives than AIDS, alcohol, drug abuse, car crashes, murders and fires combined, we can settle for nothing less."
As part of the plan, the advisory committee said it supports a proposed ballot measure for a constitutional amendment that would require 40 percent of each annual tobacco settlement payment to the state be placed in a trust fund. The interest could be spent only on anti-tobacco programs.
Although the plan contains no estimate of its possible annual cost, a report summarizing the proposals said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that annual funding for a program in Montana should be $9.3 million to $19.7 million.