The recent news stories about Iowa’s collection of over $1.1 billion in Master Settlement Agreement payments since 1998 came against a backdrop of the Iowa Legislature further slashing the state’s already anemic tobacco control budget.
As a point of reference, over the same time period that the State of Iowa was the beneficiary of the $1.1 billion in payments made by the tobacco companies under the Master Settlement Agreement, it has spent less than 10 percent of that amount in programs to prevent youth and adults from starting to smoke or in programs to help people quit smoking.
The state also has collected several millions of dollars, in addition to the Master Settlement Agreement proceeds, in what has become a middle of the road tax on tobacco products.
Our legislative leaders categorically refuse to close the casino smoking loophole that permits patrons to smoke in casinos. At the same time, after years of declines in smoking rates, the percentages of adults and youth are starting to increase. None of this can be reconciled with highly-touted initiatives to make Iowa the healthiest state in the country, unless you are talking about the financial health of tobacco companies.