Myers Urges Congress to Dedicate Tobacco Settlement Dollars to Tobacco Prevention

Testimony Before Senate Committee Considering Federal Medicaid Waiver Cites Opportunity to Reduce Tobacco Use Among Kids
March 15, 1999

Washington, DC - Matthew Myers, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, today urged Congress to dedicate a portion of the funds from the states’ settlement with the tobacco industry toward tobacco prevention programs as a condition for the federal government to waive its claim to its share of the money. “We support the states’ request that the federal government waive its right to these funds, provided that the waiver is conditioned on the states spending a sufficient amount on programs to actually prevent and reduce tobacco use – at least twenty-five percent of the total the states receive,” said Myers in his testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services. “If we use the money from the settlement wisely, we have an opportunity to make major advances, advances that would not have otherwise been possible.” Since the Medicaid program is a federal/state partnership, the federal government is legally entitled to a significant portion of the funds to be paid by the tobacco companies. Congress must pass a waiver for the states to receive the full $240 billion, and can earmark funds for certain purposes. “When the states brought these cases they said they did so in order to reduce tobacco use, particularly among children,” said Myers. “Yet, because the multi-states settlement makes no provision for how the money will be spent, in a number of states there are plans to spend little or none of the money on programs to reduce tobacco use. In those states it now appears that funds obtained as a result of the toll of tobacco will be diverted to purposes which will do nothing to reduce the number of our children who become addicted to tobacco or to reduce the amount of money that the government will spend to treat tobacco-caused disease in the future.” Myers cited new scientific evidence demonstrating that comprehensive state and local tobacco control programs work. In one study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in Oregon, a comprehensive tobacco control program funded through an excise tax has resulted in an 11.3 percent drop in tobacco use in just 2 years. Myers also cited programs in Massachusetts, California and Florida that have reduced tobacco use. According to Myers, the essential components of a state-based comprehensive tobacco prevention program include: public education campaigns to deglamourize and discourage tobacco use; effective school-based programs; community-based programs; treatment for those who want to quit; adequate funding for enforcing existing laws; and funds to evaluate the effectiveness of programs on an ongoing basis. “In short, the tobacco prevention programs which could be funded by using a portion of the money the states receive from the settlement of these lawsuits could save millions of lives and billions of healthcare dollars,” Myers concluded. “It is about the most cost-effective investment Congress can make.” ### Read About Myers' 3/15/99 testimony