View Full Version : Vicious Cycle with Tobacco

07-08-2005, 11:39 AM
This would make me mad if I didn't think leaders of other states will read this and be like what a great idea.

Over the last four years, Missouri has recieved over one billion dollars from what's called the MSA, or master settlement agreement. That's money from the big tobacco companies, paid out to settle claims from the states for injuries caused by tobacco use.

The money is designed to pay the states back for past losses caused by caring for the sick, made ill by tobacco use. The money is also to be used to pay for anti-smoking campaigns, like advertising and hot lines for those who want to quit.

At least, that's the way it's supposed to work, but in Missouri, not one dime of the tobacco money has been spent on its intended purpose.

Missouri ranks last among the states in tobacco prevention spending, but third in the number of smokers per capita.

Smokers can be seen outside offices all over downtown, taking smoking breaks. They are among some 26 percent of Missourians who smoke. Their lungs are important to cigarette makers and Missouri lawmakers. That's because the sale of cigarettes put more than one billion dollars into the Missouri treasury since 2002, with billions more to be paid out over the next 20 years. But instead of going for anti-smoking efforts, the money goes to run goverment. Last year, tobacco money made up about 1 point 2 percent of the state budget.

Pat Lindsey, of the Tobacco Prevention Center, sees the irony of keeping the number
of smokers at the current level. If the smoking level declines, so will the income from the master settlement agreement, she said. She added there's a formula, and it would be substantially less if there are fewer smokers.

Lindsey works at St. Louis University where she runs a prevention program, funded with federal dollars, not settlement money. She says with the tobacco settlement money, anti-smoking ads like these could reduce the number of Missouri smokers, like they have in other states.

One anti- smoking activist, also a lawmaker, says Missouri has surrendered to the cigarette peddlers:

"It would be helpful if we fought back. Missouri seems to have sort of ceded the ground to the tobacco industry. The tobacco companies spend 600 thousand dollars a day in Missouri advertising their product," said Jeanette Mott Oxford.

If that's the case, you'd think the cigarette industry would leap to be interviewed for this story. But that's not the case. RJ Reynolds declined outright. Phillip Morris offered telephone information, but nothing on camera about how Missouri spends its tobacco settlement.

Smoking opponents are wishing for an increased excise tax on cigarettes. Missouri has the third lowest tax in the nation, 17 cents a pack. The suggested increase to a dollar 17. That would raise about 270 million a year.

Mott Oxford said for every ten percent you raise the price of a pack of cigarettes, a certain number of folks quit. It's between four and seven percent. Mott Oxford said those hurt worst by cigarettes are children and teens. Any tax hike would need the support of the Governor, Matt Blunt. He said he would not back a hike in the tax.

"I would not," he said. "I think that states are becoming dependent on tobacco tax revenue. They are going to regret that. The public policy goal ought to be zero money from tobacco taxes."

Lindsey at the Tobacco Prevention Center said Blunt is being coy. He could, if he wanted to, spend just a little money to fight tobacco use.

"Why can't we have just a little bit?" she asked "A few million would help. We haven't been given a dime."

She said the reason is that the tobacco lobby is very strong in Missouri.

And, she believes, they have friends in Jefferson City.

One of those lobbyists is Andy Blunt, the governor's younger brother. But Governor Blunt says that means nothing.

"I do think it's a bad industry. I don't ever accept contributions from the tobacco industry. They make a product that can't be used in a healthy way," he said.

Governor Blunt has a second tie to tobacco money. His father, Congressman Roy Blunt, married a second time in October, 2003. His new wife is a Washington lobbyist for the parent cigarette maker Phillip Morris.

Johnny Footstool
07-08-2005, 01:00 PM

07-08-2005, 01:03 PM
it was all about the money.

07-08-2005, 01:10 PM

Channel 5 kdsk
By Investigative Reporter Mike Owens

07-08-2005, 01:25 PM
I've always wondered how tobacco lobbyists make it through the day knowing they have so much blood on their hands.

07-08-2005, 01:26 PM
it was all about the money.
Yep. That comment applies to the tobacco companies, the governments, the lawyers who filed the class actions, the attorney generals, the whole group. State governments are now in bed with Big Tobacco.

07-08-2005, 03:18 PM
What do you expect from a state run by 'Governor Blunt'?

07-08-2005, 03:28 PM
Yep. That comment applies to the tobacco companies, the governments, the lawyers who filed the class actions, the attorney generals, the whole group. State governments are now in bed with Big Tobacco.

They have been for a long time. I bought some tobacco stock when they bottomed out (when the lawsuits first started). My theory was that the government wouldn't kill the golden goose (tobacco money). Even before the settlement, the government was making a lot of money off tobacco.
The government makes more income off the sale of a pack of cigarettes than the tobacco companies do.

I like how Ohio is funding help-lines to help people quit. I don't like how a lot of settlement money is being spent to criminalize the Big Tobbaco companies. The money should be spent trying to get people to quit, not in a propaganda war. I remember when I was a kid, they had those American Lung Association public service ads on during the Saturday cartoons. Teach the kids that smoking is bad, so they have the values when they reach the age when they are tempted to try it. And of course, help the adults that want to quit.

07-08-2005, 03:35 PM
Or God forbid they come up with a comparable product with the nastiest of carcinogens and toxins that cause cancer removed completely, while still retaining a stimulating effect (i.e. caffeine).

It should just be outlawed in it's current form and everyone knows it. Our government is so sleazy.