MA Near Bottom of Barrel in Funding Smoking Prevention
BOSTON — According to a new report, Massachusetts will collect more than $900 million this year from the 1998 state tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only a fraction of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is adequate for programs that prevent tobacco use.
The report, called "Broken Promises to Our Children,” was produced by a coalition of health and advocacy groups. Casey Harvell, the Massachusetts director of public policy for the American Lung Association, said the Commonwealth ranked 36th out of the 50 states for the amount it spends on smoking prevention.
"We are on the downward trend; we are nowhere near recommended levels - not even close,” Harvell said. "So, we've seen a persistent trend of people thinking that we have addressed the tobacco issue, though it remains a leading cause of preventable death and disease."
The CDC has recommended that Massachusetts spend upwards of $66 million for tobacco prevention programs. The commonwealth is currently spending less than one percent of the $900 million it takes in each year from the settlement on programs aimed at reducing the use of tobacco products.
John Schachter, director of state communications with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said it is routine for state lawmakers across the nation to take money from the tobacco settlement fund and use it for other purposes.
"Overall this year, the states will collect over $26 billion from the state Tobacco Settlement and tobacco taxes,” Schachter said, "but they're currently only spending $492 million - that's less than two percent - to fight tobacco use."
Massachusetts advocates have said they'll be pressing both the governor and lawmakers to double the nearly $4 million the state currently allocates for smoking prevention in the new state budget process, which begins next month.