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An anti-smoking coalition says Illinois needs to put more of the money it gets from a settlement with tobacco companies into anti-smoking ads, rather than the general budget.

An advocacy group wants the state of Illinois to spend more of the billions it gets from a decades-old legal settlement with tobacco companies to combat adolescent smoking, noting that the federal agencies recommend spending much more on anti-smoking campaigns.

It’s been 20 years since tobacco companies entered into a settlement agreement that sends billions of dollars every year to all fifty states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases guidance on how much of each state’s settlement money should be spent on anti-smoking activities like ad campaigns and cessation programs like tobacco quitlines.

In the current fiscal year, Illinois will spend $9.1 million, less than 7 percent of the $1.1 billion it gets from the annual settlement.

John Schachter with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said state budget officials need to be more disciplined in their spending of the settlement money.

“A reasonable amount would bring down tobacco-related expenses, health care expenses would save lives and money, yet states are spending it on other priorities,” he said.

The CDC figures aren't mandatory, only suggestions. With tobacco industries spending more than $290 million in advertising in the state, Schachter said the anti-smoking ads are at a disadvantage.

“It’s hard for Illinois to be effective in countering the marketing that the tobacco industry is still doing,” he said.

Compared with other states, Illinois ranked 35th in terms of percentage of settlement money spent on anti-smoking activity. Most states do not meet the CDC’s suggested rate of spending.

Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for INN. Lauterbach has managed and produced shows for news/talk radio stations in both Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

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