Study gives Illinois 'Fs' in tobacco prevention and support for quitting smoking

Tiny fraction of tobacco tax and settlement money goes to prevention programs

January 16, 2013

A new report by the American Lung Association said Illinois could invest more to reduce tobacco consumption.

But the state has used nearly all of its money from the tobacco settlement and taxes for other purposes.  

The report gives the state props for smoke-free air, but Fs for tobacco prevention and support for quitting.  

Joel Africk, who heads the Respiratory Health Association, said Illinois needs to do better.

“If my child brought home two Fs, an A and a C, I wouldn’t be happy about it,” Africk said. “The state is getting all this money in, and it’s spending a very small portion of it on tobacco control.”

Last year, Illinois received more than $700 million from tobacco taxes and the tobacco settlement, according to the State Comptroller's office. A big portion of that money went to the general fund, a spokesperson said. The rest went to schools and Medicaid.

About $12 million, not quite 2 percent, went to tobacco prevention.

Kathy Drea of the American Lung Association in Illinois said they keep lobbying to get more. But she said the state has a lot of financial problems right now. “This probably isn’t in the top of their list of priorities.”

She also said states aren’t required to spend a set amount on these prevention programs.

“Well if you remember the tobacco settlement back from 1998 when the deal was made, they didn't really put any restrictions on how the money had to be spent,” Drea said. “And the tobacco industry was at the table when those decisions were made.”