Counties to Get Tobacco Settlement Funds
Nearly $16 million from Maryland's share of a massive legal settlement with the nation's cigarette makers will be distributed this fiscal year to county health officials to pay for new programs to fight cancer, state health officials said yesterday. The a
The Washington suburbs trailed only Baltimore and Baltimore County in the size of the awards, which were calculated according to a formula that considers population and cancer rates in each jurisdiction. The formula provides an objective measure for distributing the state's portion of the tobacco settlement, which is expected to total more than $4.4 billion over the next 20 years.
Other awards include: Baltimore, $3 million; Baltimore County, $2.6 million; Anne Arundel County, $1.4 million; Howard County, $433,000; St. Mary's County, $212,000; and Calvert County, $171,000.
To calculate the awards, state health officials first did a study of cancer rates in each county for seven targeted cancers, which also was released yesterday. The study found that cancer was diagnosed in 24,305 people in Maryland in 1997, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
More than 10,000 people died of cancer that year, giving Maryland the eighth-highest rate of cancer mortality in the nation. Cancers of the lung, colon, breast and prostate accounted for more than half of the deaths, the study found.
Before the counties can receive the cash, local health officials must submit plans for spending the money on treatment, screening and prevention. Marsha Bienia, director of the state's Center for Cancer Surveillance and Control, said she expects most counties to submit their plans this fall.
Bienia said many counties already are focusing on colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon and rectum, the second-leading cancer killer in Maryland after lung cancer. Colorectal cancer was diagnosed in more than 2,800 Marylanders in 1997, and it killed more than 1,100 people in 1998, including about 280 people in the Washington suburbs.
Statewide, nine counties--including Prince George's and Anne Arundel--have death rates from colorectal cancer that are significantly higher than the national average.
"Because it can be prevented and detected early, we can make a big difference just like we have in breast cancer," Bienia said. "It's almost totally preventable. We just need to get people to their doctors."