Sunday, February 8, 2009

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

It is important to remember that the Tobacco Settlement Foundation money comes from a 1998 court settlement. At that time,the Attorneys General of 46 states, including Virginia, signed the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the four largest tobacco manufacturers in the United States to settle state suits to recover costs associated with treating smoking-related illness. The spirit and intent of the MSA was to provide states with funding for tobacco use prevention programs that would ultimately lower the prevalence of tobacco use, thus lowering medical costs to care for citizens with tobacco-related diseases. According to the MSA, the tobacco manufacturers are projected to pay the settling states in excess of $200 billion over the next 25 years. Virginia is expected to receive approximately 4 billion.
Well, lookie here at the press release below, seems the legislators have quietly raided the till to pay for obesity programs for kids ( the bill passed). Can't they just put daily gym back in elementary school and take Mcdonald's concessions out of the cafeteria?
The DAVISReport
HB2456 Threatens the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation’s Progress
in Reducing Youth Smoking
RICHMOND, VA (February 4, 2009) -- The American Lung Association in Virginia and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids are opposed to House Bill 2456, which is under consideration in the Virginia General Assembly. It is likely to come up for a vote in the House General Laws Committee as early as February 5 or as late as next week.

This legislation would change the name of the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation (VTSF) to the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and create two divisions within the new entity: Virginia Tobacco Prevention and Virginia Youth Obesity Prevention. As written, HB2456 allows the youth obesity program to use the 10 percent of Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) funds currently dedicated to VTSF -- with the only restriction being that the VTSF funds are for the “primary purpose” of tobacco prevention. While VTSF is doing a good job with the resources it has, it makes absolutely no sense to dilute the budget of an agency that is already underfunded.

The American Lung Association in Virginia and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids support amending HB2456 to place a cap on the total tobacco funds available to obesity prevention at $100,000 per year. The cap would prevent substantial amounts of tobacco money from being diverted from their intended purpose. The evidence is clear -- we should be expanding funding for tobacco prevention and cessation, not cutting it.

Virginia receives $310 million annually in tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement payments, yet spends less than 5 percent of this revenue on tobacco prevention. The state’s funding for tobacco prevention is a mere 13 percent of the best-practices level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ninety percent of Virginia’s tobacco settlement dollars are already directed away from tobacco prevention and cessation. Tobacco settlement funds should be used for tobacco prevention.

Tobacco prevention programs reduce smoking and save lives. Studies have shown that the more states spend on tobacco prevention, the lower the youth smoking rates and overall tobacco use. Already, VTSF initiatives have helped reduce youth smoking by a dramatic 28.6 percent in just two years -- with 15.5 percent of Virginia high school students smoking in 2007, compared with 21.7 percent in 2005.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Virginia (and every state). It kills more than 9,000 Virginians every year and results in more than $2 billion in tobacco-related health care costs. It is critical that we fund tobacco prevention programs to keep kids from smoking because the tobacco companies are spending record amounts to market and promote their products. The most recent data show the tobacco companies spend almost $440 million each year on marketing and promotion in Virginia alone -- much of which influences kids to smoke.

Recent polling shows that the public clearly supports using tobacco money for tobacco prevention. By nearly a 2-to-1 margin, Virginia voters support funding tobacco prevention at the level recommended by the CDC. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents support funding tobacco prevention at the CDC- recommended level. In addition, while the state spends just 4 percent of its tobacco settlement and tobacco tax money on tobacco prevention and cessation, 76 percent of Virginia voters think the state should spend a quarter or more of the tobacco revenue on those efforts.


Mark Buchholz said...

So, I'm really confused here. Is this saying that after literally decades of denying that there is a link between smoking and cancer we are now saying that there is actually a link between childhood obesity and smoking. Um, I guess the old skinny people who smoke got thin??? The Davis Report - The Voice of Central Virginia and the Capital City. said...

I love these Posts. Thank you Eileen. I am so anxious about the No Smoking in Restaurants Bill. About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with Acute Bronchial Asthma and one of the major irritants was cigarette smoke. I had to stop performing in many of my usual venues due to smoke, and had to leave several public performances because smoking was allowed too close to the stage. It would send me into an Asthmatic frenzy. Even someone going outside to smoke, and coming back in with it on their clothes would make my asthma flair up. I hate being confined to certain areas or venues because of someone else's addiction being forced upon my LUNGS!!!!!!
email from Desiree

Jack's Auntie Amy P! said...

So - did the obesity thing pass? The Davis Report - The Voice of Central Virginia and the Capital City. said...

yes, the money got diverted per the article.