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Anti-Smoking Groups Call for a Bigger Share of Tobacco Settlement Money

February 14, 2001
By: Maggie Rotermund
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Anti-smoking groups called for a bigger share of tobacco settlement funds than recommended by Gov. Bob Holden.

"This is blood money from tobacco companies," said Alan VanZandt of the American Lung Association-Western Missouri.

"They're paying off the state for expenses incurred for people with tobacco related health problems. They should start with tobacco and go from there,"

Holden has recommended anti-smoking efforts get 10 percent of the settlement money -- an estimated $16 million per year.

At a news conference Wednesday, the Missouri Partnership on Smoking or Health argued that double that amount -- 20 percent -- should be allocated for anti-smoking efforts.

The organization includes the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. It warned that public health officials would not support the current proposal from the general manager.

"The Governor's plan doesn't even come close. We can't accept anything less than 20 percent or 33 million," said Lynne Schlosser, Chair of the Missouri Partnership of Smoking or Health.

The group released a survey Wednesday that reports that 77 percent of registered voters support a comprehensive tobacco prevention program and 69 percent would sway their vote depending on the candidate's position on the subject.

But the survey also found Missourians supporting a wide range of other ideas for tobacco money for purposes totally unrelated to smoking including tax refunds and highway repair.

The survey was conducted in October and questioned 600 Missourians and, according to the sponsors, had a four percent margin of error.

The Partnership advocates their plan as one that will improve the overall health of the state and decrease medical spending.

"The Center for Disease Control outlines a five point plan which involves public education, community programs, school programs, smoking cessation and tougher enforcement of laws again kids," said Danny McGoldrick of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

McGoldrick cited a study in Oregon that found that school programs, by themselves, are not effective while states using the CDC's plan made strides in smoking prevention. A program in California using all five points achieved a 50 percent consumer decline in smoking, he said.

Proponents of this plan say that the money saved in medical costs adds up immediately.

"If we decrease smoking by just one percent every year for the next five years, we save over 2 billion dollars in health care costs," said Alan VanZandt of the American Lung Association-Western Missouri.