- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Anti-smoking groups want to ensure that the money Michigan gets from its settlement with tobacco companies is used to improve the health of the state’s residents.

The national tobacco settlement brings in Michigan about $250 million to $350 million a year, and some of the money has been used to pay for higher education scholarships, business grants and budget fixes. Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed setting aside $17.5 million in tobacco settlement reserves annually for 20 years to help resolve Detroit’s bankruptcy.

“We’re not opposed to fixing Detroit’s economic problems, but we feel a reasonable percentage of the (tobacco settlement) money should be used to help people quit smoking,” Peter Hamm, spokesman for the national group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told The Detroit News (https://bit.ly/1gF2Ftk ).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Michigan needs $110.6 million a year to run an effective, comprehensive smoking prevention program. That’s more than 70 times the $1.5 million the state is spending this year, the newspaper said.

The Snyder administration said Michigan’s money is being spent strategically and well, despite not meeting the recommended funding level. Snyder also has worked to promote healthy lifestyles in the state, his office said, and that isn’t included in such costs.

The governor “takes smoking cessation programs seriously as we work to build a healthier, stronger Michigan,” spokesman Dave Murray said.

According to figures distributed by the state, 23 percent of Michigan adults were smokers in 2011 and 2012, above the national averages of 21.2 percent and 19.6 percent, respectively.

Clifford Douglas, executive director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network, said it’s “an embarrassment” that Michigan doesn’t spend more to counteract smoking-related diseases. He said an effective advertising, cessation and prevention campaign would save lives and substantially reduce the number of early deaths.

“To be blunt, the State of Michigan is not taking seriously its leading epidemic,” he said.

Earlier this year, Snyder pledged to commit up to $350 million in state funds to help Detroit as it tries to shore up pension funds that are billions in debt and prevent the sale of valuable city-owned art. Some tobacco settlement funds, Snyder said, could be part of that effort to protect works at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, some of Michigan’s settlement dollars were used in a now-defunct program providing state-sponsored higher education scholarships. The revenue also was used one year to help wipe out a looming budget deficit.


Information from: The Detroit News, https://detnews.com/

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