Thursday, February 02, 2012

If Only Michigan Had Money To Fight Smoking! Oh, wait...

From the February 1st newsprint edition of the -- Oscoda County Herald (article not available online):

District Health Department No. 2 health educator Tracey Wood, citing the American Lung Association's "State of Tobacco Control 2012" report, said Michigan received an "F" for tobacco prevention and control funding, with the state spending only $1.8 million annually to help people stop smoking and keep children from starting.


"With additional funding, the state could provide more and larger grants to local health departments and other community agencies to implement evidence-based programming throughout the state," she said. "In addition expanding funding would allow for more affordable and accessible quit services for those who want to quit.
When states are funded at the levels recommended by the CDC, adult and youth tobacco use rates decline, lives are saved, health is improved, and the state saves money."
One point eight million bucks really doesn't sound like very much money for a state that is in the midst of receiving about $280 million per year for 26 years as a result of a lawsuit against evil tobacco companies that made huge profits while saddling benevolent states like Michigan with billions of dollars worth of socialized medicine debts.

While I am a detractor of governments attempting to either cajole or punish citizens into more favored behaviors, I am still curious as to what happened to the tobacco windfall that has come Michigan's way if such a small amount of it is being aimed at health care costs--after all, wasn't that much of the point behind the lawsuit to begin with?

A quick search landed me at the Mackinac Center and an article by Jack McHugh written at the end of 2009:
When the settlement was announced in late 1998, it was like chum dumped into shark-infested waters: Hungry special interests began circling the state Capitol.

Setting the money away in a "rainy day" fund was never in the political cards — the political rewards for feeding the sharks were just too attractive to lawmakers. Gov. John Engler recognized this and forestalled the frenzy by proposing to use most of the revenue to pay for college scholarships for students who did well on the state's MEAP test. Most of the balance went to Medicaid health care programs.

But the sharks began nibbling around the edges. In 2005, the Legislature created the "21st Century Jobs Fund" business subsidy program, a hodge-podge of spending with little oversight. To pay for it they borrowed $400 million against future tobacco settlement proceeds.

To avoid spending cuts in the 2007 budget, the Legislature approved another $415 million in borrowing against future tobacco money. In 2008 they pulled out this same credit card, using it to buy $60 million in tourism ads (the "Pure Michigan" and related campaigns).
So here we are early in 2012 with government agencies and benevolent NGOs lamenting a lack of funds to fight the evils of tobacco. (An evil, incidentally, that the state benefits from the sale of to the tune of twenty cents per cancer stick.)

If only Michigan had any money to fight the evils of tobacco. Can't we sue anybody?

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