Ohio's tobacco settlement money won't be spent on prevention

@@facebook=

@@

COLUMBUS — Though Ohio will collect $1.2 billion this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and annual taxes on tobacco products, none of that money will go to fund smoking prevention programs.

Ohio is one of three states — Nevada and New Hampshire are the others — that will spend nothing from the settlements in fiscal year 2011, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The result will probably be higher smoking rates, said Shelly Kiser of the American Lung Association’s Ohio office, noting that today is the annual Great American Smokeout. “It’s a real tragedy for the state of Ohio,” Kiser said.

Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Jen House said Wednesday that the department still has $3 million from previous allocations, plus about $1.36 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $1 million in stimulus funds that will fund various cessation programs.

Tobacco companies spend more than $500 million annually to market products in Ohio, according to the Tobacco-Free Kids campaign.

Collections for all states this year will total $25.3 billion with 2 percent spent on programs, said TFK. The CDC recommends the state spend $145 million on prevention and cessation.

Ohio had a successful tobacco prevention program until 2008, according to the nonprofit TFK. Funding was cut, however, after Gov. Ted Strickland and the Legislature, wrestling to balance the state budget, began using the tobacco money for other programs.

A court case challenging their authority to use the funds for other purposes is pending before the Ohio Supreme Court.