Tobacco settlement should be F.A.I.R.
The Machiavellian power play by the Butte County Board of Supervisors against Full Allocation of Intended Revenues (F.A.I.R.) and the American Cancer Society to control how the county’s tobacco settlement funds is a classic case study of local democracy in action. Yes, it is a divisive and contentious issue for sure, but healthy and nurturing for authentic grass-roots political action and citizen advocacy.
While the tobacco settlement doesn’t specifically mandate the money go for health care, tobacco prevention or smoking cessation, one only has to read the “Recitals” section of the agreement to clearly see how the states and major tobacco companies who signed the agreement wanted the money spent.
The “Recitals” stated the settlement was meant to “…achieve for the Settling States and their citizens significant funding for the advancement of public health, the implementation of important tobacco-related public health measures…”,” … to further the Settling States’ policies regarding public health, including policies adopted to achieve a significant reduction in smoking by Youth…”, “…the Settling States and the Participating Manufacturers are committed to reducing underage tobacco use by discouraging such use and by preventing Youth access to Tobacco Products…”, “…to further the Settling States’ policies designed to reduce Youth smoking, to promote the public health”, and “ … in consideration of the implementation of tobacco-related health measures and the payments.”
Moreover, the tobacco company payments should go to fight tobacco company harms. The payments should be used to reduce the amount of damage tobacco use will cause Butte County and its citizens in the future. And that means using settlement funds to sharply curtail smoking and other tobacco use in the county, especially among children.
In summary, the Master Settlement Agreement was all about curing the ills caused by tobacco, and funds from the settlement should go toward those causes.
As a former Butte County resident and proud former member of the county’s tobacco prevention coalition who participated actively in the early stages of the coalition and American Cancer Society’s efforts to ensure settlement funds are spent appropriately, it is gratifying to see F.A.I.R.'s measure on ballot. I wish it success.