Hawaii diverts millions in tobacco settlement funds

A report is due out later this week in the U.S. doctor who is expected to criticize the government, which diverted tobacco funds settlement to balance their budgets.
Although Hawaii is not expected to be one of the main offenders, hundreds of millions of dollars have been used for other purposes not related to smoking programs and public awareness campaigns.
“It’s very shortsighted when we start to use these funds only to balance the budget, rather than putting them in a strategic prevention programs,” said Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, a nonprofit organization that receives funding tobacco settlement of their activities.
With the master settlement was signed in 1999, Hawaii received $ 536,727,359 from the tobacco industry. Of which $ 71794848 was canceled to prevent and control tobacco trust fund money to the bank’s anti-smoking programs and public service announcements. But the lion’s share of tobacco settlement, $ 464,932,511 of state legislators was diverted for other purposes.
“We understand there are other priorities and other issues, and legislators have a tough job,” said Lola Irvin, tobacco state settlement of the Project Manager. “Many other states have gone so far as to then take all the money and send them for other purposes.”
Irwin points out that most of the nearly $ 465 million in tobacco settlement funds diverted went worth causes. Legislators use most of the money to build the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako and finance day-to-day operations at the school. Other uses include funding for the program at the State Department of Health, as well as capitalizing on a rainy day fund of the state.
However, in 2011, the legislature passed a bill that would divert all of $ 6 million, which were deposited in the fund tobacco prevention. Instead, the money is used to help balance the general fund of the state in tough economic cycles. But if the money continues to be distracted, tobacco fund could run dry within four years. The Fund has a current balance of $ 45 million, but the average Hawaii spends $ 7 million to $ 8 million a year on anti-smoking programs.
“So now we’re just diving into that savings account, basically what it is,” said Zysman. “We live in turbulent times like that are unfortunate, because we know that tobacco prevention programs work.”
In addition to the diversion of funds to other purposes, the share of tobacco settlement funds, designed for smoking cessation programs continues to decline. Initially, 25 percent of monies received in Hawaii from the tobacco industry have been allocated for the Prevention and Tobacco Control Foundation Trust. In 2002, lawmakers lowered the rate to 12.5 percent. In 2007 it was lowered again to 6.5 percent. In 2015, the percentage is set to return to 12.5 percent, but nothing is guaranteed. “Its income that is looked at,” said Irwin.
To date, Hawaii anti-smoking programs have been extremely successful. From 2000 to 2009 the number of students who smoke has fallen from 12,000 to 5,500. Meanwhile, adult smokers has declined from a peak of 187,900 in 2002 to 154,000 in 2009.
Anti-smoking advocates say that the type of success can be achieved only if a significant amount of money is still available. “We need to keep the case, because the industry is not going away,” said Zysman.
Although the tobacco settlement should go to infinity, Irvine compares it to a tree with many branches. She said that the warning Tobacco Control Trust Fund and the barrel, and if it’s cut, much of the progress of the state will be lost.

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