Use of tobacco money praised
Mississippi ranks second in the nation in using its tobacco settlement money to discourage kids from smoking, according to a report released Thursday.
The report, sponsored by a coalition of public health groups, said Mississippi is also one of six states that have allocated more money for tobacco prevention than the minimum amount recommended by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Mississippi was the leader in this effort and we are going to maintain our leadership effort in prevention and enforcing our laws and protecting our children," said Attorney General Mike Moore, who filed the first state lawsuit against the tobacco industry in 1994.
The CDC recommended Mississippi spend between $18.7 million and $46.8 million. The state has spent close to $27 million a year, from a $62 million fund earmarked for a two-year pilot program.
The $62 million was separate from the money the state obtained from a national settlement in 1997.
The efforts of the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi are paying off, Moore said. "It's a credit to all the churches, the civic groups, the Legislature, schools, law enforcement, the media program, community coalitions across the state. We have 700 organizations that are part of the partnership. ...We are saving lives."
Moore cited how teen smoking in public high school dropped by 10 percent and in middle school by 21 percent last year.
Kim Ethridge, a school counselor at Madison Avenue Elementary, said there's a need for the state to spend as much money as it does on anti-tobacco programs.
"The potential is there (to smoke)," she said. "What we try to do is more of the prevention counseling to make children aware of the danger of drugs and tobacco."
Maine ranked first in funding for tobacco prevention, according to the report sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association. It spent $18.8 million; the CDC recommended it spend between $11.1 million and $25.3 million, the report showed.