Debate and Issues Archive

draft settlement

Georgia Tobacco Control Programs Unlikely To Be Funded By Settlement
As Georgia waits for the first of its 25 annual payments from its $4.8 billion settlement with the tobacco industry, it appears that state lawmakers will not fund tobacco control programs with that money.

Governor Roy Barnes (D) wants to split the money between economic development in tobacco-producing counties and health care programs, and Republican lawmakers want to use the money for tax cuts. Georgia currently spends 21 cents per resident on tobacco control programs, all from federal grants, and less than the $5 per person recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Kathleen Toomey, state health director, is not publicly lobbying for tobacco settlement money and her spokesperson commented that it would be "inappropriate" for Toomey to offer her opinions before the state lawmakers decide how the money should be spent.

Kristen Betts of the American Cancer Society commented on the inconsistency between the reasons for filing the tobacco lawsuit and how Georgia lawmakers are planning to spend to the settlement money. "With the tobacco settlement, we've got a historic opportunity. Our state sued to prevent this from happening in the future and to help people who are victims of tobacco use currently. If we do anything else (with the settlement money), that is just a missed opportunity - and a real shame."

Alan Judd, "Up For Grabs: Groups Are Jockeying For A Piece Of The State's Tobacco Settlement, But Anti-Smoking Forces Will Get None," ATLANTA JOURNAL AND CONSTITUTION (on-line), August 22, 1999.

HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS -- The ATLANTA JOURNAL AND CONSTITUTION reports that the state of Georgia is unlikely to spend any tobacco settlement money on tobacco control and prevention. According to the JOURNAL, settlement dollars are most likely to flow to health care programs, economic development in tobacco-producing counties and tax cuts. Absent a strong advocate for anti-smoking programs, the state is poised to continue to spend zero state dollars on tobacco control. The JOURNAL notes that the tobacco industry has long been a powerful force in the Georgia. For example, Governor Roy Barnes received $51,752 from the industry last year alone.

As regards anti-smoking programs, the nation will increasingly be divided into the "haves" and the "have-nots." It appears that as many as one-quarter of the states will have significant anti-smoking programs. Besides helping expand our knowledge of effective programs, these states should see declining smoking prevalence. And, as more states make progress in reducing smoking, the "have-not" states lack of progress will become more glaring. Over time, this can be used to shame "have-not" states into funding their own programs.