Idaho State will see less tobacco money in 2001
The initial allocation of earnings on Idaho's tobacco settlement has been cut back by just over 5 percent because declining cigarette sales reduced the anticipated industry payments to the state this past year.
Statistics also confirm that the state's past efforts to curtail smoking among teen-agers and young adults have been a dismal failure, something health officials hope can be reversed with a new analysis being financed by the settlement cash.
"There is a better way of doing this," Health Division Administrator Richard Schultz said.
And because of the continuing fiscal uncertainty, legislative budget analyst Jennifer Carrington told a House-Senate panel on Wednesday that the proposed distribution for the 2001-2002 budget year has been conservatively projected at $3 million in an attempt to avoid another shortfall.
"We're doing it based on projections, and we're going to run into shortfalls all the time," Carrington told the committee that is charged with recommending how the money should be spent. That recommendation will at least halve the more than $6 million in requests for a share of earnings in the trust.
In creating the so-called Millennium Fund and the mechanism for spending 5 percent of the trust fund's value from earnings on its investment, lawmakers last winter appropriated $2.3 million for smoking-related programs. That was based on the assumption that the trust would total $55.8 million by this coming spring.
But the industry payments to the state are adjusted not only upward to reflect inflation but also downward to reflect declining tobacco sales. And sales dropped enough in the late 1990s to more than offset the inflationary adjustment and actually limit the projected trust balance to just over $52 million.
Another $26.7 million in payments should be made during new budget year that begins July 1. Carrington also said earnings on the trust during the past year totaled just 6.75 percent, falling short of the annual goal of at least 8 percent in another reflection of the bear stock market.
And policy makers are still at loose ends over what can actually result in reduced tobacco consumption.
Although adult tobacco consumption overall is more than a full percentage point lower in Idaho than nationally, Schultz said the millions of dollars the state has poured into anti-smoking and substance abuse programs since the mid-1990s has had absolutely no impact on people 18 to 24 years old. Only 17 percent of that age group smoked in 1993. More than 31 percent smoked in 1999.
"We have focused on the youth in terms of the prevention effort for the last five years, and that is discouraging," Schultz said. "We are not doing something right."
Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, said that will have to change. "The Legislature is going to expect results or the Legislature is going to have to change course," Darrington told Schultz.
Schultz acknowledged it has become apparent that simply trying to educate individuals that smoking is harmful fails to provide the motivation to change behavior.
"There also needs to be a community approach involving youth coalitions along with a media approach," Schultz said.
An analysis being financed with part of the distribution --and pilot projects testing various approaches -- should flesh out the details of an effective anti-smoking program, he said.