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September 25, 2017 Government

Tobacco fund could be snuffed out

It could be the last gasp for Connecticut's tobacco prevention and cessation program.

The budget that made it through both legislative chambers last week would nix future funding for the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund, which was created in 1999 as a dedicated fund to fight smoking.

The fund has been replenished by a major 1998 multistate settlement with four tobacco companies. But Connecticut legislators have raided the fund multiple times over the years to help balance the budget.

Since 2001, the raids have totaled more than $222 million, the majority of it going to the General Fund, according to the latest annual report published by the fund's board of trustees. Meanwhile, $29 million has gone to cessation efforts since the fund's creation.

In 2015, the legislature froze disbursements to the tobacco fund for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, allowing for $6 million this year.

Now, that $6 million is at risk. The budget deal would eliminate it this fiscal year and next.

It's unclear if the cut will ultimately hold, since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has vowed to veto the GOP budget passed by the House and Senate.

But the proposal has the Northeast Region of the American Lung Association crying foul.

Last week, the ALA said snubbing out the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund would be “unconscionable.”

“It sends a clear message that the 4,900 Connecticut residents who die of tobacco-related diseases annually are unimportant,” ALA said. “We deserve a sound, long-term budget plan that accounts for tobacco as the serious public health issue that it is.”

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