Tuesday, December 05, 2000

Ohio puts $20M into smoking plan

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The state on Monday released $20.3 million to cover smoking-related health programs over the next 18 months amid concerns that the tobacco settlement used to pay for them may fall short of projections in future years.

        The Controlling Board unanimously approved releasing the money. It is the first funding to grow out of Ohio's $10.1 billion share of a national settlement of lawsuits that states filed against the tobacco industry.

        About $4.5 billion of the settlement has been either committed or promised Ohio's public schools through 2025. The rest will be spent on smoking cessation, enforcement of underage tobacco sales, minority health care and other smoking-related health programs.

        The money released Monday will go into one of eight “trust funds” the state has set up to oversee spending from the settlement.

        The $8.7 million spent in the budget year that ends June 30 is about 13 percent less than the amount discussed in negotiations, said David Gehr, a budget analyst for the Office of Budget and Management.

        Lawyers and budget officials at the time of the settlement, which was reached in 1998, did not factor in inflation or any changes in the smoking habits of Americans.

        That made it difficult for OBM to calculate actual revenues from the settlement, Mr. Gehr said. The Controlling Board also released $11.6 million for the budget year beginning July 1.

        “It's not as much as people thought we were going to get, based on the numbers that were publicized at the time the tobacco master settlement agreement was made public,” Mr. Gehr said.


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- Ohio puts $20M into smoking plan