Md. is putting its tobacco money to good use . . .

July 23, 1999|By Stewart J. Greenebaum and Morton I. Rapoport

Today in Maryland, 66 people will discover they have cancer, 28 people will die of cancer and 59 children will start to smoke. -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening

WITH these words, Mr. Glendening began an historic speech at the University of Maryland Medical Center on June 3. His remarks were a call to arms for our state to fight tobacco use, make breaththroughs in cancer treatment and research, and end tobacco farming.

Sadly, many states are squandering the unprecedented opportunity created by the tobacco settlement. From new sidewalks in Los Angeles, to flood control projects in North Dakota or reduced automobile taxes in Rhode Island, they have missed the point.

Only four states have made more than minimal commitments to smoking prevention and cessation programs, though the federal Centers for Disease Control recently proposed a model program for states.

Fortunately for Marylanders, Mr. Glendening, with support from the legislature, has chosen to do the right thing with Maryland's tobacco money: spend $1 billion over the next decade to expand the battle against tobacco.

Some $50 million a year will go to cancer research, prevention and care.

Some $30 million a year will provide for smoking prevention and cessation programs, fully funding the CDC's model program for our state. Of that, $10 million will be directed to minority communities, tracking the targeted marketing tobacco companies have inflicted on these neighborhoods for years.

Some $10 million will go to other substance abuse treatment, recognizing that tobacco use is often an entryway to more serious drug abuse.

$8.35 million per year will fund a program designed to help tobacco farmers make the transition to cultivating other crops.

About $1.5 million per year will be committed to the Maryland Health Care Foundation to provide care for those with inadequate or no health insurance.

More than 40 percent of Americans will develop cancer. Marylanders tend to have higher rates of cancer than the general American population.

Today, our state has the fifth-highest rate of cancer incidence and mortality -- and that's after some progress; we used to have the highest rate. This disease causes untold suffering and is expensive, consuming 20 percent of money spent on health care. Maryland's Medicaid program alone spends $379,000 per day to treat cancer patients. As cancer incidence generally increases with age, these costs will soon skyrocket as baby boomers grow older.

With Mr. Glendening's bold vision for the tobacco settlement funds, Maryland will become the national model for providing cancer care and eradicating tobacco use.

Stewart J. Greenebaum is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors. Dr. Morton I. Rapoport is president and chief executive officer of the University of Maryland Medical System.

Pub Date: 7/23/99

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