Anti-smoking fund cuts the right call

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2008

Despite objections from anti-smoking groups, Gov. Ted Strickland and leading lawmakers were correct to pull some $230 million from the fund used by the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation for the purpose of job creation.

That made up about 85 percent of the foundation’s funds. The foundation sued the state and a Franklin County judge has set a hearing for April 23.

It isn’t that the foundation’s work is not substantive. It is. And it isn’t that the state’s top political figures wanted to pull the rug out from underneath the foundation. They don’t.

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But the reality is that the state needs funds to support the $1.57 billion program that is aimed at putting Ohioans to work.

The state and national economies are in the tank. Whether there is a current recession depends on which economist is asked, but it is safe to say is we’re in trouble.

Now is the time for dynamic leadership and state leaders are doing their best to make something happen.

“We now have a statewide smoking ban. The tax on cigarettes has gone up, which has driven down usage, and we now have an economic need,” House Speaker Jon Husted told the Associated Press. “We’ve tried to use within our ability the resources we have available to make smart decisions for the state of Ohio and that’s not always going to make everyone happy.”

That’s exactly right.

Husted also pointed out that the program was established when the economy was on more stable ground. Now that the winds have changed, the use of those dollars in a more prevalent area of need is justified.

The dangers of smoking are clear and if a person chooses to smoke, it is hard to believe they do so without any knowledge that it is bad for their health. Education of young people in this area is certainly needed, but that education should begin at home and also be received in schools. And just because the foundation’s funds were slashed does not mean that anti-smoking efforts will die.

The jobs initiative is an important one. It

was a difficult decision for state leaders to make, but in the end they got it right.