State Trails In Tobacco Settlement Spending
LANSING, Mich. , 5:59 p.m. EDT July 29, 2001-- Michigan ranks low in its spending on smoking control programs, despite having a high number of smokers, according to a national group.
Most of the 44 other states in the national tobacco settlement created new smoking-cessation programs, but neither Michigan nor North Dakota is using any of the money that way, according to the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C.
And Michigan has a high smoking rate, with about 2 million smokers. The organization, whose supporters include the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society, ranked the states by how much of the tobacco money they spend, per state resident, on anti-smoking programs.
Gov. John Engler and state lawmakers have decided to pour three-fourths of Michigan's share of the settlement into a college scholarship program and the Michigan Education Assessment Program, which administers statewide standardized school tests.
State health department officials say that independently of the tobacco settlement, Michigan is spending about $8 million a year on an anti-smoking program it has had for years.
"A lot of other states started programs with the money, but we've been putting general-fund dollars into tobacco programs since the 1980s," said Geralyn Lasher, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Community Health. "More money doesn't necessarily equal better results. We want programs that are outcome-based and are working."
The Center for Tobacco-Free Kids says that the $8 million-a-year program falls far short of the minimum of $54 million advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Based on Michigan's population, the CDC estimates that is what a comprehensive anti-smoking effort would cost.
"If Michigan doesn't spend that in the next few years, you're going to see its smoking rates significantly higher than in surrounding states," said Peter Fisher, a spokesman for the anti-tobacco group.
Under the settlement, the states are free to spend the money as they wish. Michigan expects to collect $8.5 billion over 25 years from the $250-billion, 46-state, 1998 settlement. Funds began flowing in 1999.
Michigan's share will average $350 million a year.