Friday, December 30, 2011

Lessons from tobacco prevention (part 2): dedicated funds diverted to general fund

As our state starts implementing I-1183 (privatization of liquor sales and further deregulation of liquor and wine) and considers changing laws regarding illegal drugs, with proponents stating that tax revenue generated from these changes will fund prevention and other social services, it is interesting to consider lessons learned from similar promises made regarding tobacco prevention. 

From the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

Historically, Washington funded tobacco prevention largely through the Tobacco Prevention and Control Account, which included a portion of the revenue raised by a 2001 voter-approved 60-cent per pack cigarette tax increase. The ballot initiative dedicated the new revenue to the state’s Basic Health Plan, to tobacco prevention and cessation, and other existing programs that were already funded with tobacco tax revenue. The initiative required the state to spend at least $26.24 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation beginning July 1, 2002. In the 2009 legislative session, the Washington State Legislature changed this law and diverted tobacco tax money to the general fund. After June 30, 2011, the Tobacco Prevention and Control Account had no remaining funds to sustain the program.

In FY2012, the state’s tobacco prevention program was essentially eliminated as the state will spend only $750,000 on tobacco prevention efforts.

As a result of the dramatic funding cut, Washington will no longer fund anti-tobacco media campaigns or local tobacco prevention and cessation programs in schools or through local governments or community organizations.

Washington is spending almost nothing on tobacco prevention despite the fact that the state is receiving more tobacco-generated revenue than ever before as a result of a $1.00 per pack cigarette tax increase, to $3.025 per pack, and increases in the tax rates on other tobacco products effective May 2010.

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