CDC Pushes Anti-Smoking Campaigns
ATLANTA (AP) - Federal health officials urged states Thursday to devote more money from the national tobacco settlement to anti-smoking campaigns, calling the windfall the greatest opportunity to save lives since the development of the polio vaccine.
States are pouring $883.2 million this year into programs to cut tobacco use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) said in its first comprehensive breakdown of how states invest in the effort.
More than $650 million is from the states' $252 billion settlement with the tobacco companies in 1998. About $220 million comes from taxes on cigarettes, and the rest from general revenue.
The states' investments in anti-tobacco programs averaged only about 60 percent of the CDC's minimum recommendation.
``Not since the polio vaccine has this nation had a better opportunity to make a significant impact in public health,'' CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan said.
The CDC praised seven states - Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio and Vermont - for meeting its recommendation on tobacco-control spending.
Still, the government said tobacco companies spend seven times as much advertising their product as states do discouraging it.
Also, the District of Columbia and five states - Connecticut, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Tennessee - devote no state money to tobacco control, relying only on federal funding, the CDC reported.
Some states are only now making critical decisions about how to divide up the settlement money. States have earmarked settlement money for a broad range of programs, from foster care and after-school services to prescription drug coverage for senior citizens and scholarships for students.
``This is a very serious problem,'' said Dr. Terry Pechacek, assistant director of CDC's Office of Smoking and Health. ``If dollars are put into other worthy causes, it becomes a competition between issues. Tobacco, we feel, merits attention in the first go-round.''