The following article from May, 1999 provides a good example of how various minority and health groups in San Francisco sought to obtain some tobacco settlement funds for tobacco control and health programs for minority populations both in San Francisco and in foreign countries from which many persons immigrate to California. For more information on what has happened in California since May, go to TCSG's State Tobacco Settlement Updates web page.
Anti-tobacco forces eye settlement funds Coalition wants 20 percent of The City's share of $539 million for prevention
By Eric Drudis SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER STAFF May 18, 1999
Anti-tobacco activists have asked the Board of Supervisors to earmark 20 percent of San Francisco's $539 million share of a tobacco settlement for tobacco prevention programs in The City.
The nation's four leading tobacco companies agreed in November to pay $206 billion to 46 states, putting an end to a lawsuit to collect lost health care costs for smokers. While some states have vowed to use their share to fight tobacco use, others have plans to pay for construction or balance state budgets with the funds.
In a proposed resolution presented to the Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Tobacco Free Coalition asked that $107 million of The City's share be used to combat tobacco industry advertising, enforce anti-tobacco legislation and create smoking cessation programs. The coalition also asked that another 5 percent of the settlement be dedicated to international tobacco prevention and control efforts in countries with high rates of immigration to San Francisco.
At a rally in front of City Hall Monday, the coalition - a network of minority and special-interest organizations that has branched out into anti-tobacco efforts - asked The City to "invest in San Francisco's health."
"San Francisco should invest a significant amount of the tobacco settlement money on tobacco prevention efforts to reduce death, suffering and public expense caused by tobacco use," said Lisa Manning of the San Francisco African American Tobacco Free Project.
Some have suggested the money be used to rebuild the 133-year-old Laguna Honda Hospital. But tobacco prevention activists fear The City won't use any of the money to combat smoking - Ê especially if most of it is tied up with the $437 million project, which supervisors had previously planned as a bond measure.
"We have no problem with the money from the settlement going to Laguna Honda," Manning said. "We just want 25 percent to go to tobacco prevention. That is the amount people have suggested. We need to spend at least 30 percent of what the tobacco industry spends for advertising."
If the Laguna Honda financing is approved, there wouldn't be enough money left over to adequately combat smoking in The City, said Gordon Mar, director of tobacco prevention programs for the Chinese Progressive Association.
"Our proposal is wise public policy, it is reasonable and residents would support it," Mor said. "We are not opposed to Laguna Honda or other projects, but a significant amount of the settlement money should go to prevention. The basis of the lawsuit (against the tobacco industry) was seeking compensation for the health costs caused by tobacco use."
Spending money abroad - especially in Asia and Mexico - would help The City reduce its immigrant smoking rate, Mor said.
More than 7,000 people die each year in San Francisco from smoking-related illnesses, said Mirian Lau from the Chinese Progressive Association.
"Smoking kills more people than AIDS, drug overdoses, murders and suicides combined," Lau said. "Tobacco sucks a great amount of life and money from San Francisco." The City allocates $800,000 a year to tobacco control but spends $150 million to treat smoking-related illnesses, said Deborah Gallegos of the Columbia Park Boys and Girls Club. She added: "San Francisco has good laws, but little money to enforce them."