The State of Iowa received its latest multi-million-dollar payment from the settlement with the four largest tobacco companies this week. Iowa Attorney General, Tom Miller, helped broker that settlement reached in 1998.
“The State of Iowa received $47-million from the tobacco companies as a result of the tobacco settlement for our regular payment. And then another $17-million this week as well as part of the Strategic Contribution Fund that they pay. And that’s allocated based on what I, and the other people in the office, contributed to the settlement,” Miller explains.
This marked the 14th payment since the settlement was reached. “So we’ve received 888-million overall since 1999 and 116-million has been from the strategic payment account for the work that I and the other people in the Iowa office did to bring this about,” Miller says.
The Iowa Legislature determines how the millions are spent. Part is spent on tobacco prevention programs. “Some of it over time has gone into a Healthy Iowa Trust to serve medical uses,” Miller says. “A lot of it goes into the general fund on the theory that we brought the case because of the damage to the state for tobacco-related expenses that are paid through the Medicaid program for tobacco-related disease. And that is very significant, so they do take a significant amount from the general fund as a result of that.”
Miller believes the legislature is not spending enough of the money on tobacco prevention programs and would like to see that spending increased. He says the settlement has been one of the things that has helped cut the number of smokers in the country.
“Smoking in America continues to decline, decline significantly. One way to look at it is that about the same number of cigarettes are sold in the United States today as were sold in the early 1950’s with a far fewer people,” according to Miller. “Looking at it on a per-capita basis, per capita the sales in America today are the same as in the 1930’s –so in a sense we are rolling back the clock in tobacco usage — and that’s going to save a lot of lives.”
The agreement calls for tobacco companies to pay the 46 states involved $206-billion over 25 years, and then continue annual payments beyond 25 years based on the number of cigarettes sold in the United States.