You can't blame Gov. Paul Cellucci for wanting to use some of the
tobacco settlement money for programs other than those directly related to smoking
If you don't know smoking is bad for you by now, you're never going
to know it. And if you haven't stopped smoking by now, you apparently don't care what
inhaling all that tobacco is doing to your lungs, heart, etc.
The Bay State has been a national leader in the field of tobacco
education, and is currently spending some $31 million a year trying to convince people to
stop smoking. The campaign has been very effective, but it's created a substantial
bureaucracy and been a lucrative source of income for advertising agencies and others
involved in the production of TV spots and other vehicles used to get the word out that
this is a dirty and unhealthy habit.
Does the campaign require all or even a significant portion of the
$7.6 billion the state is scheduled to receive over the next 25 years as its share of the
settlement with the tobacco companies? We don't think so.
On the other hand, we don't agree with Cellucci that some $4 million
of this money ought to be used to expand a program by which firefighters are paid on an
overtime basis to go into schools and talk to kids about how cigarettes can cause fires.
That's another worthwhile program, to be sure, and there are probably some circumstances
in which overtime is warranted.
But a 400 percent increase, (from $1 million to $5 million, according
to the Boston Globe, which goes on to suggest this may be payback for the firefighters'
endorsement of Cellucci in last year's election) seems excessive.
We'd prefer to see all of this money go into the general fund, which
bears most of the cost of smoking-related illnesses suffered by state employees, Medicaid
recipients and the like, after all. That way the amount of money spent on the various
anti-smoking and smoking safety efforts should be considered separately from the amount of
money flowing into the state's coffers. And perhaps, as
Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government suggests, at least a portion of it might be
returned to the taxpayers.