"I just think it's very harmful to the whole public perception of what was
intended," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman
of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
"Everyone understood that this money was not going to go for tax
President Clinton issued a news release saying that the report
showed a glaring problem. "Tobacco companies are spending 10 times more to market their
product than all 50 states combined are spending on tobacco
prevention and cessation," Clinton said. "I encourage all states to
commit a significant part of their settlement to address the harm
that tobacco companies have caused through decades of
deceptive marketing, especially to youth."
Because North Carolina has created trust funds to receive its
settlement payments and has not spent any of the money yet, the
report did not rank the state in comparison to the others. One of
the trust funds -- administered by the Golden LEAF foundation -- is
for long-term economic programs to help tobacco-dependent
communities. The other is for health-related projects.
In some cases, the money has gone to almost everything but
smoking prevention, according to the report, titled "Show Us the
Kansas, which the report ranked 43rd of the other 45 states, will
get about $53 million this year. That state's legislature appropriated only
$500,000 this year to smoking-prevention programs. The first $70 million that
Kansas received after settlement payments began went to cover shortfalls in the
state budget, according to the report.
Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher said that studies are showing
that prevention efforts can work."We have the tools, the knowledge and the resources to cut smoking
rates in half by the end of the decade," Satcher said. "The question is, do
we have the will?"
McCain said he was shocked by how much of the money is being
eaten up by attorneys' fees. One Maryland lawyer wants $1 billion
dollars for his services, McCain said, wondering what that would
amount to if broken down to an hourly rate.
John Hurson, a Maryland legislator representing the National
Conference of State Legislatures, said it is important to remember
that the states are in the beginning stages of deciding how to spend
the payments. Though Maryland got high marks in the study, he
acknowledged that there are many problems over how the money
has been spent so far.
"The operative word when we looked at this issue was 'feeding
frenzy,' " Hurson said. "There were a lot of groups who saw this
money as their salvation."
Maryland has had to put some money that could be used to combat
smoking into escrow accounts, he said, pending the outcome of
lawsuits over how much lawyers in the case should be paid.
McCain was skeptical of what can be done to stop the abuses.
"I didn't make these commitments -- the states did," he said.
"I don't know what can be done, frankly, about it."
Carole Crosslin, a spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.,
said that the master settlement agreement gives the states sole
power in deciding how to spend money.
"In fact, the MSA contains restriction deeds precluding tobacco-
industry involvement in state spending," she said. "However, we
sincerely hope that the states will spend a significant portion of
the settlement funds on the purposes that were intended."
In an interview after the hearing, McCain acknowledged that people
have a right to doubt the effectiveness of the settlement, given the
current spending patterns. "Their skepticism is warranted," McCain said. "I hope we are able
to get a public outcry to force change."
by Kevin Begos
Journal Washington Bureau