Advertisement

Health issues come first

January 26, 1999

Christmas usually comes in December, but for this year's Pennsylvania legislature, the big gift may be delivered in March, when the state receives the first hunk of a $11.3 billion settlement with the tobacco industry. We agree with Jeff Weisberg, head of Pennsylvania's chapter of the American Heart Association, that it would be unfortunate if the cash were diverted away from health-related matters.

We take that stand because even though it sounds like a lot of money, there are already a lot of programs vying for a share of it, and once it's gone, it's gone.

Therefore it makes sense to use the bulk of the cash to undo what the tobacco companies have done. That would mean sponsoring stop-smoking classes, putting together an advertising blitz to keep kids from starting and investing some of the money in cancer research, If those measures are successful now, they could help cut the state's costs later, for expensive hospital treatments for smokers whose illnesses have exhausted their private funds.

Advertisement

Some other proposals for using the money - buying health insurance for the poor and cutting taxes - may be laudable goals, but would make more sense if the lawmakers proposing them would identify a continuing source of cash to fund them.

Ridge, as a possible candidate of the next presidential ticket, will be under pressure to take the tax-cut option. We hope he will tell those who are clamoring for that option that it's more important to break the cycle of smoking, and that the state has a temporary store of funds to try to do that.

We emphasize "temporary" because with all the proposals for additional tobacco taxes, and a new federal suit against tobacco companies by President Clinton, it's unlikely these geese will be laying many golden eggs in the future. The settlement cash the state receives in March must be used to reverse the damage they've done to smokers and keep those who haven't started yet from getting hooked.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|