Tobacco accord to aid health

Glendening to use $1.7 billion to fight cancer, smoking

`Industry's blood money'

Md.'s share from suit also will help farmers convert to other crops

June 04, 1999|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Vowing to make Maryland a national leader in anti-smoking efforts and cancer prevention, treatment and research, Gov. Parris N. Glendening unveiled plans yesterday for spending $1.7 billion from the state's tobacco settlement over the next decade.

Glendening said $1 billion will be spent on cancer research, an anti-smoking campaign, substance abuse treatment and similar programs; $700 million will go to education spending between 2001 and 2010.

The governor announced the spending plan before a packed auditorium at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, drawing applause from university staffers, anti-smoking activists, legislators and others.

The plan deals only with the $1.7 billion the state expects to get during the first 10 years of the tobacco settlement. The full settlement calls for a $4 billion payment from tobacco companies over 25 years.

Glendening noted that other states have proposed using their tobacco settlements to do such things as renovating morgues, eliminating some taxes or distributing the money to local governments to spend on sidewalk repairs or other projects.

Maryland is taking a different path, he said.

"I do not see this as `easy money' to spend foolishly," Glendening said. The settlement provides a unique opportunity to reshape public policy and to "take the tobacco industry's blood money and make Maryland a healthier state for everyone," he said.

The governor's plan calls for spending $50 million a year on cancer research and treatment, $30 million a year on anti-smoking efforts, $10 million on substance abuse programs and $8.35 million a year to help Maryland tobacco farmers convert to other crops.

Referring to the state's relatively high cancer rate, Glendening said he wants to transform Maryland from "being a leading cancer state to being an anti-cancer state."

Richard A. Daynard, a veteran anti-tobacco activist and law professor at Northeastern University in Boston, said Glendening has been one of the nation's most aggressive governors in fighting tobacco use.

`National leadership'

"I think he's leading Maryland into a position of national leadership in this area," said Daynard, chairman of the Tobacco Products Liability Project, a public health advocacy group that encourages lawsuits against tobacco companies. "I think he and everybody in Maryland who supported this initiative can be very proud."

The University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore and the Johns Hopkins University will be among the big beneficiaries of the spending plan for the settlement money, with substantially increased funding for cancer research and prevention programs.

Glendening said the medical center will get $10 million a year over the next 10 years to develop a statewide cancer care network and build "world-class" clinical and research programs, while Johns Hopkins is getting $10 million a year over the next three years to build its cancer research and treatment programs.

Ultimately, the state plans to invest as much as $15 million annually, for 10 years, in each institution, the governor said.

Dr. Sanford A. Stass, director of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, said the money, will be a big help. His school currently has an annual budget of $45 million.

Broader research

"It's a tremendous boost to our ability to expand what we're doing and really develop our research in a broader manner and translate that research into the best treatment available," Stass said.

Stass said the center plans to work with community hospitals and doctors around the state to provide the best cancer treatment possible for Maryland residents. It also will focus on supporting "under-served and minority populations" around the state.

The governor's plan to spend $30 million a year on anti-smoking efforts was welcomed by activists who led the fight in the General Assembly this year to increase the state's tax on cigarettes from 36 cents per pack to 66 cents per pack.

"All of us are ecstatic," said Vincent DeMarco, executive director of Maryland Children's Initiative, a coalition that led the tobacco tax fight. He noted that Glendening is proposing to spend more on anti-smoking efforts than the $21 million a year required under the legislation raising tobacco taxes.

Plan is praised

DeMarco said that would do more to reduce tobacco consumption among adults, discourage teens from taking up the habit and cut the number of deaths due to smoking-related illnesses.

"Governor Glendening is Big Tobacco's worst nightmare, not only in Maryland but around the country," DeMarco said.

Glenn E. Schneider, a community organizer with the Smoke Free Maryland Coalition, said Glendening "showed quite a bit of courage in putting in even more money for tobacco use prevention than the legislature required."

Schneider predicted the combination of Maryland's higher tobacco taxes and an aggressive anti-smoking program will reduce tobacco consumption in Maryland more than 30 percent over the next five years.

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