When the states attorneys general announced last fall they had settled their lawsuits against Big Tobacco for $246 Billion the assumption was that a big chunk of it would go for health care and an anti-smoking campaign aimed at kids.
But now that the money is about to arrive some lawmakers are thinking otherwise. Alabama, for example, wants to spend $85 million for programs like boot camp detention centers while in Los Angeles the entire windfall of $300 million may go to repair sidewalks. People already know they shouldn't smoke, says Mayor Richard Riordan.
"I'd say the biggest complaint that we get day in and day out, council members and myself, is the decrepit nature of our sidewalks," says Mayor Riordan.
Louisiana may sell off the money it gets now and in the future to the highest bidder in order to reduce the state debt. Kentucky may use some of theirs to help rescue tobacco farmers who've seen their incomes plummet.
And then there's Minnesota, which just elected new governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura. He wants to spend it on medical research. Businessmen want a tax break.
Anti-tobacco activist Bill Novelli says some states are missing the point.
"Some of the states are very progressive about this and then some seem not to be, and it does concern us. What we need, of course, is to use the tobacco money to fix the tobacco problem," says Novelli.
State officials defend their decisions by pointing out that the
settlement already sets aside some funds for an anti-smoking campaign. But health experts warn even more is needed because so far nothinghas slowed down a steady rise in underage smoking.
Reported By Jim Stewart