Indiana should meet tobacco fund obligations
Saturday, July 19, 2014 5:00 AM
The recent news that Indiana had settled a dispute with tobacco companies means that the state will receive $217 million over the next two years, the issue won't be fought out in court, and a number of health-related programs will get their funding.
That's all good news, but those concerned about Hoosier health will note that this victory doesn't have anything to do with the state's overall approach to the yearly tobacco funding it receives. In short, much of the money that is intended for smoking cessation efforts and public health programs will continue to be directed toward other purposes.
Since 1999, Indiana has received nearly $2 billion from tobacco companies as part of the master settlement agreement. Over the years the amount the state spends on smoking cessation programs has dwindled. Despite indications that the programs have helped decrease the smoking rate in the state.
Just last year, when state legislators slashed $4 million from the program, it meant that only $5 million of its annual $131 million disbursement would go toward programs to help smokers quit and prevent kids from picking up the habit.
Then, a federal arbitration panel decided last September to decrease Indiana's share, ruling that Indiana didn't do enough to collect funds from some tobacco companies. If that decision had held up, Indiana would have lost about $63 million in tobacco settlement funds this year.
Thankfully, the dispute has been resolved, Indiana will recoup some of the money it lost and future payments have been preserved. The resolution will enable the state to meet its obligations to such health-related programs as the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Now if only Indiana would live up to its other obligations tied to the funds it's received for the past 15 years.