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Utah ranked 17th in anti-tobacco spending

Utah ranked 17th in anti-tobacco spending

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A consortium of health groups says Utah doesn't spend enough on anti-tobacco advertising despite 10 years of collecting tobacco settlement funds.

The "Decade of Broken Promises" report ranked Utah 17th among states for its anti-tobacco spending. The report is produced by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in collaboration with American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

A 1998 settlement agreement forced tobacco companies to settle tobacco-associated health costs claims. States get a share of the funds annually.

Utah will get roughly $42 million this year, according to a state appropriations report. shows. Add that to the projected 2009 tobacco tax revenues and Utah could take in some $105 million, the consortium report states.

But only $8.2 million will be spent on anti-tobacco initiatives.

Meanwhile the consortium projects tobacco companies will spend more than $57 million advertising their products in Utah.

The consortium said states are tempted to raid tobacco funds to meet budget shortfalls.

Utah lawmakers skimmed $44.4 million from tobacco funds for the budget in 2004 and another $9.8 million in 2004.

"I'm not sure I can tell the Legislature what to do, but the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is saying that more can be done, and I think we agree," said David Neville, spokesman for the state's tobacco-prevention and -control program.

Health advocates say much of Utah's money gets used on other important programs, including more than $12 million for the Children's Health Insurance Program, $2 million for drug courts and $4 million to the University of Utah Health Sciences.

Davis County Health Director Lewis Garrett said that with all the competing priorities, it's hard to criticize the way the money has been divided.

"I understand why they've done what they've done, and I think they were very legitimate decisions to make," he said.

Neville said the state's anti-tobacco programs do well with the funds they get.

"We have a comprehensive program that targets just about everything," he said.

Information from: Standard-Examiner

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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