Many people may not remember, or be familiar with, the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) so I want to remind people of what exactly it was and what it meant for Idaho. This was a legal agreement between 52 states and territories and the four major tobacco companies in the U.S. that settled dozens of lawsuits brought by state attorneys general to recover the costs associated with smoking related illnesses.
Idaho participated in this lawsuit, and as a result, receives approximately $18 million per year from the settlement. This led the state legislature to establish the Idaho Millennium Fund, which was designed to invest these dollars and provide funding in perpetuity to support tobacco prevention and cessation, as well as other substance use prevention programs. However, within the law, there is no requirement these dollars be used specifically for tobacco prevention efforts. Recently, these annually appropriated funds have shifted to support other health care initiatives.
hero_image_alt_text===Picture of a variety of tobacco products including cigarettes, JUUL, and more
thumbnail_alt_text===Picture of a variety of tobacco products including cigarettes, JUUL, and more
This means that many independent and community tobacco prevention programs have been limited in their ability to provide education and prevention programs throughout the state. We’ve seen across the country that investments in evidence based, comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation efforts increases the number of both adults and youth quitting rates and reduces the numbers who start or relapse. These results save the individual health from smoking related disease, as well as saving state dollars in health care costs associated with tobacco and nicotine use.
The purpose of the MSA was to reduce smoking, and the harms associated with it. However, it is not possible to ensure the prevention and cessation efforts are effective without adequate funding. The tobacco industry spends approximately $45 million on marketing in Idaho each year, while the state spends less than $5 million on prevention and cessation efforts. Meanwhile, tobacco related disease costs the state approximately $508 million annually.
We know increasing investment in tobacco prevention and cessation programs will have an impact on the dollars spent by the state every year in health care costs and lost productivity. We also know that this investment will help improve the health of individuals, and support their efforts to live smoke free. But this investment will also result in future cost savings for the state, as well as individuals who are able to quit, or never take up, smoking. We are working with partners to reinvest in the original purpose of the Millennium Fund, to help ensure all Idahoans have access to prevention and cessation services, and appreciate your support to invest in the health of all Idahoans.