Up in smoke

US state governments misuse funds meant for curbing smoking; A US anti-tobacco negotiator quits

Published: Saturday 15 September 2001

the silver lining on the cloud of smoke has proved futile in the us . Only an insignificant amount of the funds from a landmark settlement between the 50 us states and tobacco giants has been utilised for anti-smoking programmes, according to a new report. In 1998, all the us states had agreed to withdraw ongoing lawsuits against the tobacco industry. The industry was required to, in return, cough up us $246 billion over 25 years. The state attorneys general who negotiated the settlement expected the funds to be used for averting tobacco addiction, but the industry was not put under any obligation to do so.

Now, the report by the National Conference of State Legislatures (ncsl) reveals that only about five per cent of the us$21.2 billion paid so far has been used for prevention or cessation campaigns related to smoking. Most of the funds have been allocated for financing tax cuts, repairing roads and school buildings and aiding old people's homes. "The states' failure to act is inexcusable in the light of growing evidence that comprehensive tobacco prevention programmes are working to save lives in the few states that have implemented them," said Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a pressure group based in Washington.

Meanwhile, Thomas E Novotny, the us official working on a treaty to reduce cigarette smoking worldwide has resigned at a time when the debates of the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are heating up. Novotny has led the us delegation during the convention talks aimed at reducing tobacco use. Sources say that Novotny was feeling distressed by the positions he was defending, therefore, he resigned. It is said that the us has softened its position on tobacco use after George W Bush came into power.

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