The state Legislature Wednesday allotted funds in the budget to the Tobacco Control Board to curb increasing smoking rates.
The money comes from settlements with tobacco companies over the costs smoking has on taxpayers.
The decision regarding efforts to establish a permanent tobacco control endowment for the Wisconsin Tobacco Control Board received positive feedback from Sen. Judith Robson, D-Beloit, the author of the budget provision.
Robson supported the efforts to establish a permanent tobacco control endowment and asked that the first $31 million in revenue from the tobacco settlement be set aside to fund the Tobacco Control Board’s efforts.
“I have said from the beginning that tobacco settlement money should be used for tobacco control,” Robson said. “I am happy that the Tobacco Control Board will have first draw on the revenue generated by securitization. This money will go a long way towards helping smokers quit and keeping young people from starting.”
The conference committee agreed that the first $25 million of revenue from securitization would be given to the Tobacco Control Board. This is in addition to the $15 million a year the Board will receive from the proposed 2001-2003 budget.
David Gundersen, executive director of the Wisconsin Tobacco Control Board, said giving the money to the Tobacco Control Board would ensure its use for tobacco use prevention.
“Every other state that has an impact on tobacco has had an impact because they have had a long term commitment. You don’t change these behaviors with a one- or two-year program,” Gundersen said. “It’s not a formal endowment, but in effect it’s the same thing. It makes sure that tobacco money will by used for tobacco prevention and control.”
The Tobacco Control Board first met in May 2000 with the primary goals to reduce tobacco use in Wisconsin by 20 percent among youth, adults and overall consumption by the year 2005. They are also working on providing smoke free environments in work places, restaurants and homes to protect against second hand smoke and to decrease normal tobacco use.
The Tobacco Control Board is making a comprehensive effort to address tobacco use, which includes the awarding of grants, funding media and community campaigns, the creation of a quit hotline and establishing policy changes.
Campus efforts to stop tobacco use are also increasing.
It was previously thought that if one didn’t start smoking by college one wasn’t going to, but recent studies have shown that there are a number of people who start after they enter college.
University Health Services is formulating a campaign targeted at students to provide both social and psychological support as well as drug therapy.
University Health Services has applied to the Tobacco Control Board for grants, but have been turned down to date, though they will be applying for other grants in the future.
With the additional money the Tobacco Control Board will receive, more programs such as those proposed by UHS will be established.
Dr. Scott Spear, director of clinical services at University Health Services, agreed with the importance of increasing funding for the Tobacco Control Board.
“I don’t think you can spend too much money here on trying to make changes,” Spear said.