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State

Study: Ill. lags in spending on smoking prevention

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois is spending only about 7 percent of what federal officials say it should on smoking-prevention programs 15 years after a landmark settlement with tobacco companies over health risks, according to a study.

The report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids shows Illinois is 32nd among states and the District of Columbia in the amount of money from so-called "tobacco-generated revenue" that goes to prevention efforts.

The campaign's report determined how each state has spent billions of dollars so far from a landmark lawsuit against big tobacco companies settled in 1998 with 46 states.

Between settlement money and tobacco taxes, Illinois is getting $1 billion for 2014. Just over $11 million is going to tobacco use-prevention. That's 7 percent of the $157 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While it's the same amount of money as Illinois spent in 2013, it's a 17 percent increase over 2012.

State Sen. Terry Link, who sponsored the 2008 law banning public indoor smoking, said while he'd like to spend more on cessation and prevention, Illinois has a fiscal problem and there are other ways to address the problem. One way, he said, is with legislation he sponsored last spring to ban smoking on college campuses. It passed the Senate but died in the House, and he plans to bring it back this spring.

"A lot of kids start smoking in college," said Link, a Waukegan Democrat. "We're in a financial situation and I'd like to do more than $11 million, but the key is to stop kids from smoking before they start. You hear so many smokers say, 'If only I hadn't started.'"

Released this week, the report said the states have received not only $116 billion from the settlement, but $275 billion in taxes – in sum, "tobacco-generated revenue." But the report said only 2.3 percent of it – about $9 billion – has gone toward trying to stop kids from starting.

"States continue to spend only a minuscule portion of their tobacco revenues to fight tobacco use," the report concluded. "The states have also failed to reverse deep cuts to tobacco prevention and cessation programs that have undermined the nation's efforts to reduce tobacco use."

Only Alaska and North Dakota are spending money on prevention programs at the rate federal officials recommend.

Illinois spends $4.1 billion on smoking-caused health costs annually, 4.2 percent of the national total.

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Online: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/

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Contact John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor

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