My barber once told me that there are two things you do not want to talk about in his shop, religion and politics. I have tried to keep these articles free of any religious or political commentary, but recently I have learned of the irresponsible way in which our state is using the funds provided to them from the so-called “Master Settlement Agreement” with the tobacco industry. This money was supposed to be used for tobacco cessation programs. Pennsylvania was allotted 11 billion dollars to be paid out over a 25 year period from 2000 to 2025.
From 2016 to 2017 Pennsylvania received $354 million from MSA funding, with only $15 million allocated to smoking cessation and prevention. Most of the money was used to fill many of the state’s budget gaps. In 2017, the legislature floated a bond using the MSA funds to balance the state budget. MSA funds no longer support smoking cessation and prevention programs in Pennsylvania and the future of MSA funding is undetermined.
This all has happened, and continues to happen, at a time when new programs for adolescents and teenagers need to be developed as a result of the vaping epidemic. There are no “best practices” at the present time to address this problem. The programs for adults must continue but it is not clear that the same approaches will be effective for adolescents and teenagers.
Support the need to return state funding of these programs to the $140 million annually that the CDC recommends.