EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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January 27, 2013

Anti-smoking program funds diverted


“Major components of the program have gone unfunded,” said Dr. Lois Keithly, director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program, who has seen her budget slashed by $50 million from a peak of $54.3 million in 2000.

New Hampshire received $1.3 million in federal anti-tobacco money for fiscal 2013 and spent it on smoking control programs. But it provided no state money, while collecting $212 million in tobacco taxes in fiscal 2012. The state’s $1.3 million commitment to smoking cessation efforts was only 6.9 percent of the $19.2 recommended by the Centers for disease control.

Ad campaign killed

In Massachusetts, the cutbacks killed a major anti-smoking media campaign in 2001 that featured state residents talking about the effect smoking had on their lives, despite the campaign’s much-touted success. In conjunction with the Massachusetts Tobacco Control program, the media campaign was credited with reducing per capita cigarette consumption by more than 47 percent since 1997 and curtailing smoking by high school students by 27 percent, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Also lost was $940,000 to fund contracts with 19 community health centers and three hospitals for a program that helped low-income individuals and mothers to quit smoking. Spot checks by state and local health officials at stores to ensure that cigarettes were not being sold to minors also have been reduced. In releasing his proposed state budget last week, Gov. Deval Patrick called for a $1 per pack increase in the state’s cigarette tax that is projected to raise $118.5 million annually. An additional $18.54 million in revenue would come from raising taxes on other related products, such as snuff and chewing tobacco. All of that money would end up in the state’s general fund. So far, none has been earmarked for the Bay State’s tobacco cessation and prevention program, Department of Public Health spokesman Omar Cabrera said.

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