Billion fight against cancer

A $1

10-year plan: State's tobacco settlement money focused on curbing smoking and finding cancer cures.

June 05, 1999

LONG after Parris N. Glendening fades from the Maryland political scene, he will be remembered for the billion-dollar campaign he unveiled late this week aimed at turning this state into a major center for cancer research and a leader in anti-smoking programs.

With a firm boost from the General Assembly, the governor earmarked money from Maryland's tobacco-suit settlement for anti-cancer research, treatment and prevention programs; anti-addiction programs; anti-smoking efforts; and a program to help 1,200 tobacco farmers in Southern Maryland shift to other crops.

It's the biggest and boldest crusade in state history: $100 million a year for the next 10 years.

The University of Maryland Medical System is a prime beneficiary. Its Greenebaum Cancer Center could jump to the forefront of bone-marrow and stem-cell transplantation, for instance. Its plan for a tele-network with rural hospitals to diagnose and treat cancer patients could transform the way medical care is delivered.

Cancer research at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland, Baltimore gets a substantial boost, too.

Anti-smoking programs, ranging from educational and advertising campaigns to free nicotine patches for smokers and smoking-cessation classes, will take a quantum leap forward with a $30 million annual budget. Special attention will be paid to curbing smoking among minorities, who have been targets of heavy tobacco-industry advertising.

Putting $10 million a year into other anti-addiction programs is a sensible move, too.

Those who get hooked on cigarettes may migrate to more serious forms of addiction, such as alcohol and drugs. The state doesn't do nearly enough to provide adequate treatment for them.

None of this money will be handed out until next summer, when the nationwide tobacco-settlement funds must be released. It gives the governor time to come up with the specifics of his plan.

He has asked three panels to devise measurable, realistic goals for tobacco-crop conversion, smoking-cessation, and cancer research and treatment. Each allocation must be carefully scrutinized to ensure it fits with the governor's broad anti-cancer effort.

Questions still swirl around the remaining piece of the settlement money -- $700 million the governor says he wants to spend on education over 10 years. It could mean funds for "do-good" education projects unrelated to curing cancer or reducing smoking.

That would not be a wise use of the tobacco-settlement money.

The governor should limit education allocations to programs tied to science and research. Most Maryland public schools lack top-quality laboratories and science classrooms. Maryland's public colleges and universities need first-rate research and science buildings.

Producing more students skilled in the sciences -- and more cancer scientists in the process -- would be a solid complement to the health-related elements of the governor's anti-cancer initiative.

Pub Date: 6/05/99

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