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The DOJ delivers the Comey memos to Congress. Also on our rundown: More evidence that rent prices are out of reach in many markets; Wisconsin counties brace for sulfide mining; and the Earth Day focus this weekend in North Dakota is on recycling.

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Report: Too Much Tobacco Settlement Money Up in Smoke

Tobacco companies' efforts to make smoking look cool mean outspending smoking prevention efforts by about 145 to one. (Alvimann/morguefile)
Tobacco companies' efforts to make smoking look cool mean outspending smoking prevention efforts by about 145 to one. (Alvimann/morguefile)
December 15, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington ranks among the worst states in the country for not funding the efforts to help smokers quit and prevent teens from starting.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' new report says tobacco companies spend $145 marketing their products for every dollar Washington spends on smoking prevention.

The coming legislative session might include another try to raise the legal smoking age to 21, but it hasn't passed before.

And Pama Joyner, acting director of the Washington State Office of Healthy Communities, says neither did last year's efforts to curb e-cigarette use.

"They did try to address it,” she states. “It didn't end up going anywhere. But we do know the percentage of 10th grade students who used electronic cigarettes quadrupled, from 3.9 percent in 2012 to 18 percent in 2014."

The state got $582 million this year from tobacco taxes and the master settlement agreement made in the 1990s. The tobacco companies pay into a fund for states, with the money intended for programs to counteract the negative health effects of smoking. But less than one percent of it is spent for that purpose. The Legislature commandeers the rest for other uses.

The report gives Washington credit for having a strong, statewide smoke-free law and a high cigarette tax. But it says to be truly effective in reducing tobacco-related deaths and chronic illness, prevention programs are key. And the state is ranked 46th for its lack of funding for them.

Joyner says the small budget is frustrating.

"When the state has funding to address tobacco use, we are successful in decreasing smoking rates,” she says. “You know, as a state agency, we work with what we've got, and look to partners and advocates to help us keep moving forward."

According to the report, most states use almost all their master settlement and cigarette-tax revenue for purposes other than tobacco control, even though smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

In Washington state, it takes 8,300 lives a year.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA