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Forum: Use tobacco money to fight smoking

(Published August 9, 1999)


Staff Writer

Most of the people gathered for the Aug. 3 meeting at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library of the concerned anti-smoking advocates said they want the Districtís $1.2 million tobacco settlement to be used for education to prevent tobacco use.

The coalition is one of many organizations across the country gathering community input to determine how the allotted money will be spent.

Resident Mary McCall said monies should be spent on major advertising campaigns as well as school and community-based programs.

According to D.C. Action for Children, about 22 percent of D.C. high school students smoke. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says the number of young people under 18 who become new daily smokers has increased during the past 10 years.

"Iíve only been tutoring for a couple of days now and I can tell you already thereís a correlation between teen-agersí academic performance and smoking," said tutor and resident Judith Lowell.

Lowell said she believes that most kids who smoke come from a household with a parent who smokes or abuses drugs. Lowell said she also supports substance abuse treatment and counseling on demand.

About 18 percent of adults in the District smoke, according to D.C. Action. About 900 people, on average, die from smoking-related causes in the District each year, the group says.

"Ward 8 has the highest rate of cancer mortality in the District," said Lydia Johnson of the Anacostia Tobacco Control Initiative.

Johnson said her organization works to prevent smoking and promote cancer awareness. She said some settlement funds should be used to help the organization link with medical service centers, conduct research studies and help them remove cigarette advertising.

Participating in this settlement was the only way the District would receive money from the tobacco industry since Congress prohibited the city from suing the industry, according to D.C. Action.

The $1.2 million is part of a $206 billion master settlement agreement signed with five of the largest tobacco companies, 46 states and U.S. territories. The agreement concludes a legal battle between the states and the tobacco companies that began in 1994 when Mississippi sued the tobacco industry.

The companies are Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co., and Liggett and Meyers.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator