NH plans $3M fight against tobacco
Beginning in July, New Hampshire will for the first time in its history spend state money $3 million in the first year on efforts to discourage the use of tobacco.
A significant amount, say those who have fought for the Tobacco Use Prevention Fund, but paltry when weighed against the need and compared to what has been allocated elsewhere:
-- Neighboring Massachusetts, for example, a state with four times the population of New Hampshire, is spending 18 times more on its anti-smoking campaign: $54 million a year.
-- New Hampshire will make only $100,000 available for enforcement, an approach that has proven effective in curtailing tobacco sales to children.
-- The Office of Smoking and Health at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in calculating "illustrative" funding levels that took into account the differences among the states, suggested New Hampshire spend $11 million to $24 million a year to reduce the use of tobacco.
The $3 million has been set aside from the approximately $42 million a year the state will get over the next 25 years as its share estimated at $1.3 billion of the settlement from litigation against the tobacco companies. Nationally, big tobacco will dole out about $206 billion by 2025, though that estimate may fluctuate if tobacco sales decline.
Lawmakers earmarked most of New Hampshire's settlement money coming in this year as well as a $16 million signing bonus received after the 1998 national settlement to help offset the deficit caused by the state Supreme Court-ordered funding for public schools.
The anti-tobacco campaign will be funded by two bills: One, which appropriates $2,850,000 a year for community-based and statewide tobacco use prevention and cessation programs, was signed by Gov. Jeanne Shaheen on April 17.
A companion measure budgets $150,000 to a smoking cessation voucher program for families on state aid. It passed the Senate on Thursday.
Details in the Tobacco Use Prevention Fund legislation were crafted over the past year by a task force that included legislators, officials of the state Department of Health and Human Services and representatives of private groups such as the heart and lung associations and the cancer society.
Most of the money $1,250,000 will be distributed to community-based prevention programs. School-based programs will get $250,000; local cessation programs, $100,000.
The statewide effort will spend $700,000 on anti-tobacco advertising, $100,000 on enforcement and $300,000 on evaluation.
"It feels good that we were able to retain our $3 million and we didn't have a fight in retaining it. We found support both in the House and the Senate," said Rep. Kathleen M. Flora, R-Bedford, a key sponsor.
Is it enough?
"Heck no," said Flora. "If we lived in a perfect world, I would like to see all the settlement money coming back to the state being used for tobacco cessation."
"We would have loved to have seen all the money from the settlement going to education and cessation," said Lynn M. Brownell, government affairs director for the American Lung Association of New Hampshire.
Brownell cited statistics that show 40 percent of New Hampshire high school students smoke. The percentage of the state's young people who smoke is the seventh highest in the nation; among female teenagers, it is the fourth highest.
"When you stop and think what New Hampshire spends in tobacco-related health care costs, (an estimated $340 million a year) it's frightening," she said.
HHS, with the help of a tobacco use advisory committee, will get $150,000 to administer the anti-tobacco effort, recommending to the Governor and Executive Council which projects should get grants from the $3 million. Most of the money will be directed to community- and school-based projects, and HHS official Brook Dupee encouraged community groups to "start thinking now" about submitting proposals.
Aidan J. Moore, chief of law enforcement for the State Liquor Commission, said he will apply for the $100,000 the bill allocates for "enforcement."
In New Hampshire, investigators for the State Liquor Commission enforce the state law that prohibits tobacco sales to people younger than 18.
The commission has had no state money to enforce the law, but in June 1998, under a $290,000 contract with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, state investigators began supervising teenagers who attempted to purchase cigarettes and tobacco products at markets and convenience stores.
From June to December 1998, 1,157 compliance checks found 28 percent of the store clerks sold cigarettes to the teenagers acting as SLC agents. During 1999, in 2,162 checks, the sales rate dropped to 10 percent.
"The program was working. We had an average violation rate of 16 percent and we were rated by the FDA as among the top 10 states who were most successful at keeping the rate low," Moore said.
Last month, the FDA's funding was suddenly withdrawn because of a U.S. Supreme Court decree. The high court, in a 5-4 decision, said the agency lacked congressional authority to regulate tobacco as an addictive drug and could not use administrative rules to attempt to crack down on cigarette sales to minors.
"It was an enormous setback for us. . . All our resources evaporated," Moore said of the court ruling.
The $100,000 in state funds would allow Moore to revive his enforcement effort under the state law that prohibits tobacco sales to minors, "but we've got to go in and compete for that $100,000. There may be some people who envision that they are going to get some of that money for their local police departments to do this work," Moore said.
Competition for the $3 million will be brisk, predicted James Gray, advocacy director for the New Hampshire Division of the American Cancer Society. But he expects the competition will be mostly among community-based organizations seeking a share of the $1.6 million available for local prevention, school and smoking cessation programs.
Anti-smoking coalitions are active throughout the state, among them the Dover Coalition For Smoke Free Youth, headed by police Capt. Dana Mitchell, which has been recognized nationally as a model anti-tobacco community-based program.
"Most of these (volunteer-dependent) alliances have been surviving on shoestring budgets," Gray said of the importance of the state funding.
Gray compared the $3 million in New Hampshire's Tobacco Use Prevention Fund to the $16 million Maine has set aside for its anti-tobacco campaign and the $54 million a year Massachusetts spends under a program that began five years ago and is funded by a special 25-cent tax on cigarettes.
He noted New Hampshire collects about $95 million a year in taxes from the sale of tobacco products.
He cited the "model program" drafted by the CDC, which suggested New Hampshire spend $11 million to $24 million a year to reduce the use of tobacco.
The $3 million, Gray said, "is just a starting point.
"It's important to bear in mind that New Hampshire has never had an anti-tobacco program, but it's more important to realize that these programs work when they are fully funded. . . That has to be our goal."