The states and cigarette industry have a symbiotic relationship. Tobacco companies have paid states close to $250 billion in settlement money since 1998, and much of that money was meant to go on stop-smoking programs. But only 3 percent of the funds have actually gone to such efforts, and the numbers have declined recently as states have diverted the funds to cover general revenues. For the tobacco industry, the settlement money has become just a routine cost of doing business, and the states have not threatened the customer base.
Even some of the 3 percent has been wasted as states have put out ads that inadvertently glamorize smoking.
In short, states are almost as addicted to tobacco money as cigarette smokers are addicted to tobacco. Unlike smokers, states don’t seem to want to kick the habit.
But kick the habit they should, for the sake of improved quality and length of life, and lower health care costs for the states, private employers and individuals.