State Anti-Smoking Funds May Soon Be Cut

Voters in Ohio spoke loud and clear back in 2006 – they wanted a smoking ban.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, since the ban took effect in 2007, 6,711 citations have been issued, including warnings.

Now some worry smoking ban cuts may hinder efforts to effectively enforce that ban.

Ohio Department of Health

Ohio Department of Health

In Governor John Kasich’s proposed budget, by fiscal year 2013, anti-tobacco funding will be eliminated. That is unless the Ohio Department of Health comes up with another means to pay for it.

Over the last several years, the state has spent $1.16 million annually from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to help local health departments investigate and enforce the state’s smoking ban.

In Governor Kasich’s proposed budget, come July 1, there will be no money to give to health departments.

“This law is more popular than ever,” said Dr. Rob Crane, M.D., who co-founded Smokefree Columbus. “75 percent of people support this law and it’s just amazing to me the governor does not.”

In a statement, spokesperson for Governor Kasich, Connie Wehrkamp told NBC4 “Ohio’s facing an unprecedented $8 billion budget hole, which means state government has to spend less money on programs. It’s not a reflection on the merits of these programs, but rather the reality of the budget shortfall we face.”

Columbus Public Health Spokesperson Jose Rodriguez says it’s unclear how this will impact larger health departments such as CPH because a majority of their funding for enforcement comes from fines that they levy.

However some are concerned about smaller health departments.

American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society

“Some of the smaller health departments don’t feel they can enforce it without some of the funding they get from the state,” said Shelly Kiser, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association of Ohio. “Some of them have said they are not going to be able to enforce it without the funding coming in from the state.”

Jen House with the Ohio Department of Health says they are currently exploring ways to keep funding alive.

She says one option is to team up with the attorney general to obtain some of the $1.5 million they’re currently owed from businesses who have violated the smoking ban. House says ODH has only received $551,000 since the ban too effect in 2007.

“We were concerned when we saw the budget could eliminate funding for this but we’re confident that the Ohio Department of Health is going to find the money to fund this law just because it is about the health of Ohioans,” said Bob Paschen with the American Cancer Society.

Bottom line – ODH says next fiscal year, starting this July, roughly a million dollars in state funding will go towards the Tobacco Quit Line. None of it will go enforcement.

Unless funding is found elsewhere, there will be no state tobacco prevention funding starting July 2012.

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