Tobacco settlement will pay for anti-smoking program
METRO EAST - Tobacco companies, which have produced cigarettes for decades, will fund programs in the Metro East designed to encourage people to stop lighting up.
Health departments in Madison and St. Clair counties qualified to receive almost $400,000 for an anti-tobacco campaign. The grant is funded through the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The Illinois General Assembly allocated $543 million total this year from a settlement with tobacco companies. The state sued to reclaim money spent on health care for residents who smoked.
A total of $10 million went to prevention programs. Every county in the state can receive up to $30,000 through the Illinois Tobacco Free Communities Grant.
Madison County Health Department Administrator Donald Brannon said his agency will use the money for two programs aimed at pregnant women and children.
About 23 percent of expectant mothers in Madison County smoke during their pregnancy, according to a recent study by the health department.
That rate is almost 80 percent more than the state's rate, Brannon said. Mothers who smoke risk spontaneous abortions, low birth weight babies and sudden death of their infant.
In response, the health department will introduce a program called "Make Yours a Fresh Start." Educators working with other agencies such as Women Infants and Children programs will teach mothers the dangers of smoking, Brannon said.
The department also plans to kick off a new program in schools called "Tar Wars." Health professionals will use literature and lectures in classrooms to teach children about tobacco.
Additional money will be left over for other smoking programs this year, Brannon said. This is the first grant the state designed specifically targeting tobacco, he said.
"We have a little flexibility with the money so we can target other needs," he said. The department may assist other organizations such as the American Lung Association with their anti-tobacco campaigns.
"The last thing we want to do is to duplicate services," Brannon said. "We want to make sure the money is used wisely."
In St. Clair County, officials will use their $140,000 grant for four programs.
The first program, designed by the department, is called the Generation Influencing Freedom from Tobacco. The program is aimed at fifth and sixth graders and has become a model for similar projects across the state, said health promoter Sara Duguay.
With the additional funding, health workers will be able to expand the program to include third and fourth grade children as well.
"We teach about risks of using tobacco products, peer pressure and how they can be tobacco free," Duguay said.
The department will also recognize restaurants.
"We provide certificates to restaurants recognizing them for their efforts to be smoke-free," she said. "We will also contact ones that are not smoke-free to encourage them to join the program."
Health officials will also use money to assess the health of smokers through their workplace in a program called "Wellness for Life." They also plan to create a system to track anti-tobacco efforts across St. Clair and Monroe counties.
Illinois will receive a total of $9.1 billion over the next 20 years from tobacco companies. Monroe-Randolph Bi-County Health Department will qualify for at least $30,000 for anti-smoking campaigns.
The grants for each health department were based on population, said Tom Schafer, a state health department spokesman. This is a one-time grant. Additional funding for these programs would have to be allocated each year if they continue, he said.