Michael Moore, the Mississippi attorney general who filed the first lawsuit against a tobacco company on behalf of a state, gave a stern warning yesterday about tobacco settlement money going up in smoke as states spend it on what he called “the political whim of the day.”
So far, Michigan has approved $100 million of its money from the settlement expected to be $350 million over the next 20 years for spending. None of that money has been approved for tobacco enforcement programs.
Moore said most states are not spending the money appropriately according to Center for Disease Control guidelines, which mandate that a $53 million minimum be spent for tobacco-related initiatives per state.
For example, Moore said Texas was awarded $200 million and is only spending the interest off of that money on prevention. He said Los Angeles has reportedly spent the money by paying off police corruption lawsuits.
As for Michigan”s tobacco settlement money, Kenneth Warner, a professor at the School of Public Health, said he is pleased with the portion of money being spent on the life science initiatives, but isn”t as enthusiastic about the allocation of settlement money for scholarships. Warner said it strikes him as “pandering to the middle class voter.”
Most of the settlement money in Michigan has been set aside to fund college scholarships and the Life Sciences Corridor, a proposed biological research project.
Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, who is currently running for state governor, said she would like to see the tobacco settlement funds being used in different areas.
“When I”m governor, the money will be spent in the appropriate way,” Granholm said. Specifically, she said, the money should be spent on smoking prevention programs and health care.
David Whalen, a fourth-year medical student, said he sees first-hand the deadly effects of smoking when treating patients at the University Hospitals.
“After my diagnosis, I can tell that they have been smoking for 50 years,” Whalen said.
Whalen said a significant proportion of the tobacco settlement money should go towards tobacco education and other health policy issues in order to eliminate or significantly reduce smoking.