Anti-smoking group seeks more state prevention spending
MONTGOMERY (AP) — An anti-smoking group said Alabama spends only a tiny portion of its tobacco revenues to prevent smoking and the state must do more to save lives.
Lynne Zaris, director of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Alabama, said that of the $93.4 million Alabama received in fiscal 2006 from the national tobacco settlement, the Legislature allocated $332,440 to the state health department for anti-smoking projects.
"Tobacco use creates an expensive public health problem in lives lost, disease and money. Alabama spends $1.49 billion annually on tobacco-related medical expenses," she said Wednesday at a meeting of coalition members.
The $332,440 from the money paid annually to the state by major tobacco companies is being combined with the health department's own funds to push its total anti-smoking program to $682,000 this year.
According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Alabama ranks 46th among the states when the amount it spends on anti-smoking campaigns is compared to the amount the Centers for Disease Control recommends the state spend for an effective program.
Chris McInnish, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Children's Affairs, said there are other anti-smoking expenditures not counted in the coalition's numbers.
For instance, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board allocated $733,350 last year to crack down on stores that sell tobacco to minors.
Classes funded by the state to help people become better parents include a tobacco education component, he said.
Everyone would like to see more anti-smoking programs, but the question becomes what gets cut to provide more money, McInnish said.
He said the state's money from the national tobacco settlement helps pay for foster care for children, funds health insurance for children and the Medicaid program, provides juvenile probation officers, and funds many other important state programs.
Zaris said the amount the state gets from tobacco companies is supposed to go up in 2008, and that gives the Legislature an opportunity to provide more for anti-smoking programs when lawmakers meet in March to write appropriations bills for 2008.
McInnish said state law spells out the allocation formula for the money the state receives from the national tobacco settlement, and the Legislature would have to vote to change the formula.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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