Commentary: A good day to stop smoking

This editorial appeared in The Kansas City Star.

Today is the 33rd Great American Smokeout across the nation, offering millions of people the opportunity to quit smoking, save money and protect their health.

But in Missouri and Kansas, today also brings a depressing reminder of how politicians have squandered millions of dollars originally designated to help residents break their smoking habits and to stop young people from starting.

A bit of history: A decade ago state officials throughout the country settled their lawsuits against Big Tobacco, in return for payments of almost $250 billion over a quarter century.

Anti-tobacco advocates soon pressed state lawmakers to keep their end of the bargain by using the money for smoking cessation programs, health care expenses and efforts to keep cigarettes out of the hands of children.

Unfortunately, many states have diverted large chunks of the tobacco payments to finance other parts of their governments.

The latest report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids rates states in meeting the annual recommendation for funding tobacco prevention programs, as established by the federal Centers for Disease Control.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Kansas City Star.