Delegate backs anti-tobacco fund

Rosenberg to seek increase to meet federal standard for prevention programs

December 27, 2007|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,Sun reporter

A state delegate said yesterday he will introduce legislation that would require Maryland to increase funding for tobacco prevention programs by 2012 to ensure the state meets federal recommendations.

Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, said he requested that legislation be drafted in response to an article in The Sun yesterday about a report from anti-tobacco groups showing that Maryland currently spends $18.4 million on tobacco prevention programs - about 60 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended minimum of $30.3 million.

Rosenberg said his proposal would amend an existing law and require that by fiscal year 2012 - beginning July 1, 2011 - the Cigarette Restitution Fund meet or exceed the CDC's minimum for tobacco prevention. The Cigarette Restitution Fund Program was signed into law in 1999 by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening, requiring the state to use money from tobacco settlements for anti-tobacco education, health and agriculture, as well as Medicaid and substance-abuse programs.

"Over the years, we have not spent sufficient money on reduction of tobacco use by minors; public education campaigns to discourage tobacco use; smoking cessation programs; enforcement of the laws regarding tobacco sales; and prevention, treatment and research concerning cancer, heart disease and lung disease," wrote Rosenberg, one of the original restitution fund bill's sponsors, in an e-mail yesterday.

Rosenberg said the purpose of the fund should be refocused to concentrate on tobacco prevention.

"The reason why we're not meeting the CDC goals is because the bill does allow for some of the money to go for the Medicaid program," Rosenberg said. "Money has gone there at the expense of the targeted specific objectives in the bill.

"I think we need to rethink and adjust that."

Of the $194 million allocated to the restitution fund for fiscal 2008, $116 million went to Medicaid, said James Johnson, deputy secretary of operations for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He said $28 million went to cancer-related programs, $19 million to tobacco programming and $17 million to substance-abuse programs.

Johnson said the funds have been put to good use and that anti-tobacco programming has had an impact on smoking rates. He said that since the programs were put into place in 2000, there has been a 36 percent overall decrease in smoking in Maryland and an 18 percent decline in adult smoking.

"The budget allocates these funds based on the needs that are presented to the governor and the legislature," Johnson said. "Maryland actually does fairly well compared to other states in terms of the use of the cigarette restitution funds and the use of money for tobacco prevention.

"In recent years, almost all of the cigarette restitution funds have gone to either the cancer program, tobacco program or Medicaid," Johnson said. "Very little goes to other uses."

Maryland is one of the 20 states that fund tobacco prevention programs at half or more of the minimum level recommended by the CDC, according to the report, which was released this month by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and several other anti-smoking groups. Only three states meet or exceed those recommendations, which vary from state to state, according to the report.

"I think Sandy's absolutely right," said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, of Rosenberg's proposal.

"I think we're kind of in the middle right now, but we should be one of the best," DeMarco said about prevention funding in Maryland.

tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com

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