Fogarty proposes legislation for tobacco settlement funds
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) At least half of Rhode Island's share of the national tobacco settlement would be used for health care and a smaller portion for anti-smoking programs under legislation proposed by Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty.
He suggested Thursday using most of the money for long-term care for the elderly, substance abuse programs, prescription drug coverage and the uninsured and underinsured.
The anti-smoking programs would include health education in the community and schools, a statewide survey on tobacco use and a wide-ranging public education and awareness campaign.
Fogarty outlined the legislation at a news conference at the Roger Williams Medical Center, flanked by physicians in white coats and standing near a linear accelerator equipment used to treat lung cancer patients.
''Today, I want to take one of the first steps toward retiring this machine,'' Fogarty said.
Over the next 25 years, Rhode Island expects to receive about $1.45 billion from an estimated $206 billion national settlement. The payments will average $57 million a year, but the state remains undecided on how to spend the money.
Nationwide, state officials and anti-smoking groups have clashed over the issue. Most have designated only a portion to prevent smoking, with many more deciding to spend the funds on health care.
Fogarty wants to spend $5 million on anti-smoking efforts in the next fiscal year, building to $11 million by 2005.
He pointed to the success of the tobacco control program in Massachusetts where smoking rates decreased 30 percent between 1992 and 1998 after the state levied a cigarette tax.
Margaret Kane, the executive director of the American Lung Association of Rhode Island, said although she would like to see all the funds go toward prevention, $11 million is acceptable.
''There's no point in being greedy if we can be effective,'' she said.
The bill is being sponsored by Sen. Thomas Izzo, D-Cranston, and Rep. Suzanne Henseler, D-North Kingstown, and will be introduced Tuesday.