Commentary: Georgia at bottom of anti-smoking ranks

This editorial appeared in The Macon Telegraph.

In the late 1990s the world of Big Tobacco was under a full-scaled siege. Attorneys general from 46 states were leading the charge. In 1998 the largest settlement in history was reached. To escape litigation from every corner, the top companies, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Commonwealth Tobacco and Liggett & Myers, agreed to pay $206 billion over the 25 year term of the master settlement agreement. The money would be doled out to states that agreed to the conditions. Four states, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas, had already settled for $40 billion.

One of the conditions of the settlement was that some of the money would be used for anti-smoking campaigns, but a recent study sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found states are doing a poor job and Georgia is no exception. The state is ranked 50th, according to the report.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that over the past 10 years the state has pocketed $1.42 billion. Georgia will collect $393 million this year from the settlement but will spend less than 1 percent on efforts to keep children smoke free. Rather, Georgia sees fit to spend tobacco settlement money on almost anything else, from Medicaid to economic development. Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids told the Journal-Constitution, "Georgia is one of the most disappointing states when it comes to funding programs to protect kids from tobacco."

To read the complete editorial, visit The Macon Telegraph.