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Tobacco Settlement Money Not Intended For Research, Attorney Says

pack of cigarettes
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Tobacco settlement money used to prevent people from smoking has been extremely successful.

But an amendment proposed by the state's Constitutional Revision Commission would take some of that money away from prevention and use it for cancer research.

In 2006, Florida voted to use 15 percent of that money for tobacco prevention and education. Last year it totaled $67 million. 

As a result, the youth smoking rate dropped by 71 percent.

That success caused the tobacco industry to lobby for some of the settlement money to be used for research, instead of prevention, said attorney Fred Levin, who wrote legislation that allowed the state to sue tobacco companies and collect billions in settlement money.

“The reason for the settlement against the tobacco company was to keep young people from starting to smoke and that the money went into advertising,” Levin said.

Levin, a former smoker who has lung cancer, says he supports cancer research, but diverting money from prevention is not the answer.

The amendment is one of 103 proposals being considered by the Constitution Revision Commission for inclusion on the 2018 ballot. 

Public meetings to discuss the amendments are scheduled for Feb. 19 at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne; Feb. 20 at University of North Florida in Jacksonville; Feb. 27 at University of West Florida in Pensacola; and March 13 at University of South Florida-St. Petersburg.

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.