Feds suggest tobacco settlement allocation
Federal health experts have their own ideas about how state governments should allocate a $206 billion tobacco settlement. They recommend smoking prevention and cessation programs and have provided dollar figures to guide each state.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that Pennsylvania should spend between $66 million to nearly $185 million of its settlement annually on these initiatives. Other states that have spent similar amounts per capita have seen tobacco use drop by 30 percent.
The settlement between leading tobacco companies and 46 states will give Pennsylvania an average of $450 million per year for 25 years, totaling $11.3 billion.
"This is a chance now to solve a problem that has plagued our century," said Michael Erikson, director of the CDC's office on smoking and health. "There are hundreds of billions of dollars available for solutions. If programs to prevent a recurrence of the mistakes of the past century aren't made, we're going to lose a once-in-a lifetime opportunity."
Erikson spoke yesterday in the Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh during a forum for policymakers from around the country to discuss the settlement and compare plans on how each state might spend its portion of the proceeds. The event was hosted by Gov. Ridge and the National Governors' Association Center for Best Practices.
In his opening remarks, Ridge outlined the administration's intent to direct some dollars to benefit future generations of Pennsylvanians, limit bureaucracy, enhance existing service and allow flexibility if payment amounts fluctuate.
The CDC guidelines highlighted nine budget areas, including community-driven reduction of tobacco use and prevention and early detection of tobacco-related chronic disease.
"It runs the gamut from preventing smoking occurring in the first place, helping people quit, working with communities and schools, enforcing laws and evaluating the program and managing it in a responsible manner," Erikson explained.
The recommendations were based on experiences from Massachusetts and California, states that have implemented prevention programs and reduced tobacco use by more than 30 percent in the past decade. The smoking rate during pregnancy was cut in half.
According to Danny McGoldrick, of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, a 1 percent drop in the national number of smokers could lead to 11,800 fewer heart attacks and 6,300 fewer strokes over a five-year period, resulting in a savings of $600 million. In the United States, tobacco-related medical expenses cost up to $73 billion annually.