Tobacco: Our children’s health must be protected

Published 11:19 pm Saturday, June 23, 2007

Now that Gov. Haley Barbour and state Treasurer Tate Reeves have been successful in halting funding to the anti-smoking Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, it is important that an effective new effort take its place.

The last nail was hammered into the Partnership’s coffin when the Mississippi Supreme Court sided with the legal argument by Barbour and Reeves that only the Legislature could appropriate money.

It had been funded by a court order, raising constitutional issues since the Legislature is charged with appropriating money.

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Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, that the 2006 Legislature, listening to Barbour’s concerns, did vote to appropriate money for the Partnership, founded by former Democratic Attorney General Mike Moore who successfully engineered the $4.1 billion tobacco settlement that had funded the Partnership.

Or that Barbour, a former Washington tobacco lobbyist, vetoed that appropriation and his Republican control in the Senate was too great for a veto override.

Barbour says that he supports the new program like the Partnership that would be administered by the state Department of Health, created and funded by the Legislature.

However, it is something that citizens must insist is not allowed to be diminished. The Legislature has a record of diverting money from the tobacco settlement and Barbour had proposed reducing the funding for anti-tobacco efforts.

The Partnership has been successful because it was properly funded to provide a quality program. Mississippi was known as one of the top states in anti-smoking efforts.

This fight has been more about politics than the program or the constitution. It is hoped the essential goal of trying to reduce smoking in Mississippi is not forgotten.