Letter to the Editor

Master tobacco settlement: 11 years later

Friday, January 15, 2010

To the Editor:

It has been eleven years since the gavel fell on the Master Tobacco Settlement in November of 1998. Several states and US territories sued the tobacco companies for the huge cost of treating and burying tobacco users. In the settlement, the tobacco companies agreed to pay these entities lump sum payments to "offset" those costs. And much of these funds were to be earmarked for tobacco prevention programs and tobacco cessation services to help our country to move away from tobacco.

In a report released in early December 2009 by the "Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids" in partnership with the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and others, we learn that the states will collect $25.1 billion in 2010 from the MSA. And they have appropriated $567.5 million (2.3 percent) of that toward tobacco prevention and cessation programs. OK, that is still a lot of money, right? Until you realize that the tobacco companies spend $12.8 billion per year to market their products, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

So, it's no wonder that national tobacco use rates have stagnated after posting large declines over a period of years. Indiana has, in fact, risen in the last year. Indiana has risen to the second highest percentage tobacco-using state just behind West Virginia. And, yes, perennial number one Kentucky now uses tobacco less than Indiana.

Between MSA funds and state tobacco taxes, Indiana will receive $622 million this year. And Indiana's state government reduced state tobacco prevention and cessation spending from $15.1 to $10.8 million per year. So if you are tired of paying all those increased tobacco taxes and want to quit, you may not find as much help as there was before. One would think if the state has a $2 billion per year problem (medical costs directly related to tobacco use), they might try to prevent it. But that would be logical, wouldn't it....

Dave Newgent