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Missouri has more than tripled the amount of tobacco settlement money it spends on smoking prevention/cessation, but the amount still is woefully low.

As we reported Thursday, Missouri budgeted $171,582 this fiscal year, up from $48,000 in the previous year.

But both those numbers are drops in the bucket compared to the $262.1 million Missouri received through the Master Settlement Agreement for 2019.

That puts Missouri next to last among the states for how much of the money it receives goes to smoking prevention or cessation programs. Missouri outspends only Connecticut, which spends nothing on such programs.

In 1998, state attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia reached the Master Settlement Agreement with the four largest cigarette manufacturers in America. The agreement concerned the advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes, according to publichealthlawcenter.org.

The agreement settled the states' Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related health care costs.

Among other things, it required the tobacco industry to pay, in perpetuity, various annual payments to the states to compensate them for some of the medical costs of caring for persons with smoking-related illnesses. To date, it has paid out more than $100 billion.

Missouri uses most of the money to help fund the state's Medicaid program, MO HealthNet.

While the Master Settlement Agreement doesn't require the states to spend any of the money on smoking prevention/cessation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Missouri should have spent about $72.9 million (or about 28 percent) on the prevention and cessation programs. The state annually uses only about .1 percent on the programs.

We urge Missouri lawmakers to take a serious look at increasing funding for smoking prevention/cessation.

States such as California spend considerably more of their take in the agreement on smoking prevention/cessation, and they see a payoff for those investments. About 2 percent of California high school students smoke, compared to 9.2 percent of Missouri students.

That higher smoking rate will equate to more money taxpayers will have to pay for their health care costs down the road through Medicare and Medicaid.

News Tribune

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