Monday, April 12, 1999

"We can use it to prevent
what caused the problem in the
first place -- smoking."

Virginia Pressler

bonus for isles:
$203 mil

Some of the additional settlement
funds are likely to boost
anti-smoking programs
aimed at youths

By Lori Tighe


Hawaii will receive an extra $200 million from its settlement with the tobacco industry -- increasing its total from $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion, announced state Attorney General Margery Bronster.

"We are getting a strategic allocation contribution of 203 additional million dollars," said Bronster, emphasizing each word for dramatic effect at the isle's tobacco forum yesterday.

"I was delighted to hear the announcement. This is exciting news," said Dr. Virginia Pressler, with the state Department of Health.

"We can use it to prevent what caused the problem in the first place: smoking," Pressler said.

Hawaii will receive the extra $200 million in a decade of installments beginning in 2008. The money will go into a special endowment fund to build interest, Pressler said.

Hawaii received the extra money for all the work the state has done in the suit, Pressler said.

Bronster broke the news at the "Physician Intervention for Tobacco Cessation," held at Ihilani Resort and Spa in Kapolei.

The extra money spurred even more discussion on how the settlement should be spent. The Legislature will ultimately decide.

The governor wants to put half the settlement in a rainy-day fund and give the other half to DOH for health care and smoking prevention.

DOH plans to give half its share to Human Services to help pay for the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. It provides health care coverage for uninsured children. CHIP could garner even more money in matching federal funds, Pressler said.

DOH would spend the remaining 25 percent of the total settlement on smoking prevention and cessation programs, as well as nutrition and exercise programs for Hawaii, Pressler said.

The Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii also favors spending 25 percent of the settlement on smoking prevention -- especially, geared to young people.

In Hawaii, 29 percent of high school kids smoke, said Bob Toyofuku, lobbyist for the coalition and an attorney.

"A lot of the money should be aimed at kids because the tobacco industry emphasis is on hooking kids to tobacco," Toyofuku said.

About 4,000 kids start smoking in Hawaii every year, he said.

Hawaii, one of 46 states that received a settlement from the tobacco industry, will receive its money over 25 years, beginning around 2000.

"A lot of people want to quit smoking, but the success rate hasn't been great," Toyofuku said. "Now with prescription medications and cessation aids like the patch, success is much greater."

Hawaii spends $380 million a year on smoking-related illnesses, he said.

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop told the Hawaii forum this weekend that smoking is the area in which disease and death are most preventable among Americans.

A standout example of a state that has curbed smoking is Massachusetts, Toyofuku said.

Its six-year campaign to help its residents kick the habit led to a 30 percent drop in adult smoking, compared with the rest of the country's 7 percent decrease, Toyofuku said.

"It's a tough task for us," Toyofuku said, referring to Hawaii's fight over spending the tobacco money. "I don't know where it's going to come out."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin