Where There's Smoke

There are Friends of Tobacco. And antismoking advocates worry that behind-the-scenes machinations may water down a state campaign to discourage teen smoking.

"When the people have voted in favor of something," Goldwater testified, "I don't think it's incumbent on the legislative body to try to change that."

The bill died in committee.
Many observers predict, however, that Groscost's bill won't be the last attempt for legislative control over the tobacco tax, which has turned out to be a revenue gold mine.

Estimates of what Arizona's smokers would raise for the health initiative had ranged from $36 million to $90 million. While the final figures for the first year aren't yet in, it's clear that well more than $100 million will have been collected. About $10 million has been allocated for spending on health-education funds in the first year, and $5.5 million of that has been earmarked for a media campaign.

To date, lawmakers have been unable to divert tobacco-tax funds from their intended use. They have, however, tried to make sure the nonprofit organizations primarily responsible for Proposition 200's passage wouldn't be seeing a dime, either.

Last April, the Legislature passed a bill to establish how tobacco-tax money would be spent. And one of its provisions limited the eligible recipients of local health-education contracts to political subdivisions (that is, schools and community health centers, among other entities), to the exclusion of nonprofit organizations.

Publicly, both lawmakers and nonprofit organizations say that the exclusion of such groups is a prudent measure to prevent misuse of taxpayer money. Privately, many sources say the legislation was a form of punishment for the groups who backed Proposition 200.

State Senator Jan Brewer, who opposed Proposition 200, disagrees. "I think it was done," she says, "because it was an initiative that was proposed to tax the people of Arizona for a self-serving purpose, to serve [the nonprofits'] pockets, personally."

In recent months, it's become clear that nonprofit organizations still will be able to receive tobacco-tax money as subcontractors. In other words, schools might pay the American Lung Association to provide materials for antismoking presentations.

"We know that some of the dollars are now probably going to ... some of those agencies on a subcontracting basis," Brewer acknowledges. But she's quick to add: "They will know that the service better be delivered and that it better not just go to padding salaries and office space and stuff."

And to make sure that doesn't happen, the Legislature also created the Tobacco Use Prevention Advisory Committee--which shortens to the unfortunate acronym TUPAC--to oversee the spending of health-education funds.

While TUPAC debates the access of nonprofit organizations to subcontracting funds at its December 11 meeting, Matthew Madonna sits in the audience doing a slow burn.

The director of the American Cancer Society's Arizona affiliate, Madonna was a key member of the coalition that backed Proposition 200.

Twenty-three cents of each tax dollar raised by the initiative go to health education for "programs to discourage tobacco use among the general population, as well as minors andculturally diverse populations." Another 70 cents go to a "medically needy account" for services provided by the state's indigent health-care system. The remaining 7 cents are split between health research and the Department of Corrections.

It is the education money that has drawn most attention so far. This money is administered by the state Department of Health Services, which is instructed to advise TUPAC of the programs it establishes and funds.

Some of the most outspoken opponents of Proposition 200, and others with tobacco-industry ties, sit on TUPAC. Maybe that's why Madonna looks like somebody's asked him for a smoke.

"There are five people who don't belong on that committee," he mutters. He doesn't elaborate.

The panel is chaired by Jack Dillenberg, director of DHS. Speaker Mark Killian appointed two members of the House: Gerard, a Republican, and Representative Andy Nichols, a Democrat. Senate President Greene appointed two senators: Republican Brewer and Democrat Gus Arzberger.

Also, six members of the public were chosen. Killian selected Don Morris, the UnMarlboro Cowboy, and Dr. David Nielsen, an ear surgeon well-known for his antismoking efforts.

Greene appointed Dr. Michael Hughes of the state Board ofEducation, and Maura McHugh, who represents the Business Council for Alcohol Education.

Governor J. Fife Symington III opposed Proposition 200, as did Greene, Brewer and Arzberger. The governor's appointments seem to reflect his sentiments on the tobacco-tax measure. They were Jack Braddock, who lobbies for Golden Eagle Distributors, Tucson's source of Budweiser, and Michelle Ahlmer of the Arizona Retailers Association, which represents businesses that sell tobacco products.

"Mark Killian put on two people who are very well-known in tobacco-control areas," says Bruce Samuels, a local attorney who has published studies on tobacco-industry tactics. "And Greene and Fife put on two people each who are questionable in their commitment to tobacco control, at best."

As the governor and Senator Greene were appointing TUPAC members with less than shining antismoking credentials, Dillenberg was reading the fine print of the legislation implementing the tobacco-tax initiative.

That law directs TUPAC to make recommendations to the Department of Health Services "concerning the programs established and funded" by the Legislature.

The past tense was not lost on the director and his underlings. When the committee sat for its first meeting in August, Dillenberg's department informed the committee members that contracts for an education campaign involving the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Cardinals already were nearing completion.

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