Report: WI Not Spending Enough to Help People Quit Smoking

12/2/11 – Wisconsin only spends eight-percent of what federal health officials recommend to help people stop smoking – or not start in the first place. And of every dollar in tobacco revenue, Wisconsin is spending less than a penny this year on stop-smoking programs. The figures are from a new report released by a coalition of health groups, including the American Cancer Society. The nation’s four largest tobacco companies agreed in 1998 to pay billions to Wisconsin and 45 other states in perpetuity. The money’s supposed to be used to cover the state’s medical costs related to smoking. But in 2001, Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum sold the state’s lawsuit proceeds to a financing firm, in exchange for a much larger sum which was used to balance the state budget. But Wisconsin still gets millions from the settlement. And it’s getting almost 800-million dollars this year from the settlement and the cigarette tax. Yet, only five-point-three million dollars are being spent on stop-smoking programs – 22-percent less than in the previous state budget. The national health report said Wisconsin slashed its tobacco cessation spending by 65-percent since 2009. The state did score points for its statewide public indoor smoking ban, big increases in the cigarette tax, and new efforts to beef up tax collections. But Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids says Wisconsin youngsters remain at risk unless the state spends more on stopping smoking.