July 30, 2010 - Funding for anti-tobacco efforts is taking a hit as governments and philanthropies switch their preventive-health focus to fighting obesity, according to a Philanthropy story relayed on Tobacco China Online and quoting The New York Times.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the US' largest private grant maker for anti-smoking efforts, was said to have trimmed tobacco-related grants to $4 million last year while committing $58 million to the weight issue.
With Michelle Obama leading a campaign against childhood obesity, the White House steered $1.15 billion from the economic-stimulus and health-care overhaul bills toward the fight against fat, compared to $200 million for preventing tobacco use. States are also said to be cutting back on funds for anti-smoking programs, raising concerns among tobacco-control organizations.
The decline in state funding to prevent smoking has distressed advocates. The 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between 46 states and cigarette companies provided more than $200 billion through 2025.
“The tobacco industry outspends us in a day what we spend in a year,” said David Dobbins, chief operating officer of American Legacy Foundation.
And even as states were raising taxes on cigarettes to record levels — a proven way to deter smoking — they were shifting that revenue to general funds. Both tobacco industry analysts and anti-smoking groups say that states have become addicted to tobacco money but are using less of it for prevention efforts.
“Overall funding on tobacco control is down because of dramatic cuts in state spending in recent years,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in an interview. “In the last several years we’ve seen the rapid progress in both adult and youth smoking rates slow to a crawl largely because of a decline in overall spending at the state level on tobacco prevention and cessation.”
State funding for anti-tobacco programs dropped to $567 million last year, from $717 million two years earlier, a 21 percent cut, according to an advocacy groups’ report titled "A Broken Promise to Our Children.”
But Dr. Howard K. Koh, assistant secretary for health, focused on what he said was unprecedented funding from the federal government for both issues. “Rather than pitting one disease against another, we want to uphold comprehensive prevention policies,” he said in a phone interview. Dr. Koh said the administration was directing $722 million to tobacco control and research this year and $821 million to obesity control and research.
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Reference: Tobacco Funds Shrink as Obesity Fight Intensifies by DUFF WILSON
Published: The New York Times, 7/27/2010..