BATON ROUGE—Attorney General Jeff Landry recently announced that his office's Public Protection Division’s Tobacco Unit had procured $137.5 million from the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) payment this year, but what he didn't say was how much of that money actually goes toward anti-smoking and tobacco cessation programs.
The MSA is an agreement between 46 states, including Louisiana, and the tobacco companies. The historic settlement was signed in 1998 with tobacco manufacturers agreeing to give the states an annual payment as long as cigarettes are sold.
“The intent of the MSA was that the funds would go toward tobacco cessation and anti-smoking programs; however, the document itself doesn’t require states to use the money for tobacco control,” Maureen O’Brien, staff attorney with the Public Health Law Center (PHLC), told the Louisiana Record. “(But) only a small percentage of the MSA actually goes toward tobacco prevention and cessation. Each state can allocate the money as the legislature sees fit.”
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids recently issued a report about the MSA, "Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 17 Years Later."
According to the report, $25.8 billion will be given to the states from the settlement and taxes in fiscal year 2016, but only about 1.8 percent of that money will actually be spent on programs to prevent children from smoking and to help smokers quit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a best-practices spending guide for each state on what it should be spending on tobacco control programs. For Louisiana, this figure is $59.6 million annually.
In 2015, Louisiana only spent approximately $6.8 million on tobacco control, according the "Broken Promises" report. In 2016, $7 million has been allocated. It's estimated that the tobacco industry will spend $220.5 million toward marketing their products within the state of Louisiana. For every $1 spent in prevention, the industry is spending $35.10 in advertising.
The "Broken Promises" report outlines the toll of tobacco on Louisiana residents. There are approximately 7,200 deaths each year caused by smoking. About 23.5 percent of adults smoke, as do another 12.1 percent of high school students.
For comparison, in North Dakota, the only state that fully funds its tobacco cessation programs, 21.2 percent of adults smoke and 11.7 percent of high school students do; however, only 1,000 deaths each year are attributed to smoking in the state.
The amount of money received by the MSA “is a complicated and complex equation,” O’Brien said. “It has to do with the market (and sales) of cigarettes, but I’m not well-versed in the actual calculation.”
In Louisiana, the attorney general’s office is tasked with securing the annual payment from the MSA. The Louisiana legislature allocates the MSA to multiple organizations, including the Health Excellence Fund, The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), the Education Excellence Fund and the Louisiana Fund. The Louisiana Fund is exclusively for tobacco enforcement and education under the AG’s umbrella.
TOPS is a scholarship program for Louisiana residents who attend one of the approved colleges or universities, and not related to tobacco prevention or cessation.
The Louisiana Public Health Institute and attorney general’s office did not respond to interview requests.