The Associated Press reported on Monday something that we long ago predicted would happen as a result of the tobacco settlements. “Less than four years ago, Washington state’s attorney general helped win billions of dollars from the tobacco industry for 46 states – money she saw as a bonanza for smoking-prevention programs and other health measures. Now she is watching in dismay as states around the country – including her own – borrow heavily against their shares of the settlement to plug holes in their budgets.
“States are not just spending the yearly checks on something else; they are spending decades of settlement payments all at once. ‘This was the single biggest opportunity in the history of public health to address the most preventable cause of death in America,’ Attorney General Christine Gregoire said. ‘I sure hope I don’t look back and say it was the biggest lost opportunity.'”
Well get ready to say it Christine because the outcome of this was obvious from the beginning, and you can bet there will be a lot more holes in need of plugging to come. You don’t have to look back to figure out a lost opportunity here, which, had you applied common sense, you should have foreseen long before the first settlement check was written.