Debate and Issues Archive

draft settlement

EDITORIAL: Smoke and Mirrors
  Toledo Blade
  Date: June 8, 1999

REMEMBER those tobacco lawsuits? Remember how those state attorneys hammered tobacco companies for marketing to children?

Remember how the deal was that a goodly sum of the money the states recovered would go for programs to counteract company ad campaigns and to keep children from developing the noxious habit?

Well, now that some states have begun collecting the tobacco booty, their legislators are reneging on the grounds that smoking prevention programs may not be a wise investment.

The standard excuse given for the switch after the tobacco companies took the bait is that youth prevention programs haven't been tested and no one can be sure they work. And boy, wouldn't that money be helpful paying for something else?

In Texas there seems some inclination to set the money aside for health spending. One bill under consideration would invest from $10 million to $20 million, another bill $40 million to $50 million on prevention programs.

In Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wanted to spend $61 million on anti- smoking programs. The House first had in mind nothing at all, then raised the ante to $30 million. Similar stories are emerging from Massachusetts, which, with Florida, is said to have model anti-smoking programs, as well as Minnesota and Washington state.

What all of this says is that some state officials are on a par with tobacco executives when it comes to reliability and believability. And if a pot of money they've collected for one purpose gets large, they will raid it and divert funds to pet projects with the alacrity of common brigands.

They must be stopped.

This settlement was sought for kids and to reimburse states for medical costs advanced on behalf of indigent smokers. It should be utilized for those purposes or returned as ill-gotten gains attained through false pretenses.