Smoke ... and mirrors

Southwest Life

Smoke ... and mirrors

Money disappearing for smoking-cessation programs in county, school district

M. SPENCER GREEN/AP

Lawmakers find funding lode in tobacco money

By Dale Rodebaugh


Herald Staff Writer


In order to balance the coming year’s budget, which begins July 1, Colorado lawmakers transferred to the general fund $20 million from the reserve created by Amendment 35 for tobacco education and treatment, and $11.8 million from the 1998 national tobacco lawsuit settlement.


What’s more, state legislators repealed a 50-year-old sales-tax exemption on cigarettes, a move that’s worth about $30 million a year. The sales tax is 2.9 percent.


Under the 1998 agreement, states are able to use the national tobacco lawsuit funds however they see fit.


The settlement between the federal government and tobacco companies provided $206 billion over 25 years to states for anti-smoking programs, with each state’s share based on its percentage of the national population – not on the number of cigarettes sold.


By some calculations, Colorado is being shortchanged because instead of the 1.15 percent it received under the original, locked-in formula, the state by July 2008 calculations has 1.164 percent of the total population (5 million out of a total of 304 million).


By 2005, Colorado had received $572 million from the 1998 settlement.


Amendment 35, which won a "yes" vote from more than


61 percent of voters, generates $175 million a year in new revenue by increasing the excise tax on cigarettes by 64 cents (for a total of 84 cents) and raising the excise tax on cigars and chewing tobacco 20 percent.


Forty-six percent of Amendment 35 revenue was to be spent on the Child Health Plan Plus and Medicaid; 19 percent on primary health care through community clinics; 16 percent on tobacco education, prevention and cessation programs; 16 percent on early detection of cancer and cardiovascular disease; and 3 percent for state, county and city government health programs.


The state was allowed some wiggle room, however. Amendment 35 allowed revenue to be transferred from the designated purposes if two-thirds of the Legislature declared a fiscal emergency.


This year, legislators did just that.


daler@durangoherald.com

Smoke ... and mirrors

M. SPENCER GREEN/AP

"There will be increased health-care costs in so many ways when young people take up smoking and adults don't
stay quit."

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