Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Tuesday, February 9, 1999

The Salem Evening News
Monday, February 9, 1999

Editorial: Tobacco windfall must be spent wisely

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 education.

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.

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