Ruling on tobacco money goes too far

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week that Ohio’s transfer of $230 million that had been set aside for tobacco prevention programs was legal.

But that doesn’t mean Ohio should have done so.

The Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Fund was established in 2000 after a landmark settlement was reached between states, including Ohio, and tobacco companies sued over the effects of smoking. Ohio’s share was $10.1 billion, according to published reports.

Gov. Ted Strickland and state legislators agreed in 2008 to liquidate the fund and divert the money to help pay for an economic stimulus package hoped to create jobs.

The Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court

The money was then redirected again to help expand state health care benefits.

We said early on the tobacco money should have remained untouched. Too many Ohioans still smoke and still suffer from the effects of smoking and using smokeless tobacco. Longterm efforts to curb the use of tobacco products stands to make Ohioans healthier and save the state money.

Other states took steps to protect the tobacco settlement money. Ohio did not.

We want to see Ohio reaffirm a commitment to the need for tobacco prevention efforts. Ohio’s budget problems continue, and the state needs to find real answers to its lack of revenue. It can’t keep using money intended for other purposes and programs of value to residents of the state.


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