News and Events > Legislature's
Industry influence apparent in demise of anti-smoking program
Florida politicians spend millions on TV commercials for their
re-election campaigns -- and achieve dubious results. But when they're
asked to fund a widely praised advertising program that's made a
demonstrable difference in teen smoking rates, they're suddenly
For the second year in a row, the Legislature has held funding
for the state's anti- smoking program -- including a series of edgy
TV commercials -- to $1 million.
That's $15 million less than what Gov. Jeb Bush requested, $39
million less than what health officials say is needed to preserve
the program's effectiveness, and $69 million less than what the
program got in 1998.
There's little dispute that the program has been useful. A state
survey indicates tobacco use dropped 37 percent among high school
students and 57 percent among middle school students between 1998
Late in this year's session, Bush tried but failed to rally his
GOP colleagues to boost the amount. "There's ample money to
be able to fund this program," he said. Indeed, there is --
from the $410 million the state receives yearly from the 1998 legal
settlement with the tobacco industry.
But for reasons that seem to escape even Bush, lawmakers aren't
willing to honor a pledge to use those funds for smoking-related
health programs. "I'm not sure why there is this abject hostility
toward the tobacco-prevention program," Bush said.
The mystery may not be so tough to solve. The tobacco industry contributed
close to $4 million to lawmakers, state officials and their parties
between 1998 and 2002. That, of course, buys a lot of campaign commercials
-- and influence.