Spend tobacco money now
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne wants to bank all of the money
Idaho received from Big Tobacco as settlement of a nationwide lawsuit. He wants to spend
only interest earned.
It sounds prudent, but it puts off the day when Big Tobaccos
ill-gotten gains may begin to stop the scourge it fostered.
Kempthorne will avoid a political fight over what to do with the money,
but there should be more to leadership than the avoidance of political bickering. The
Legislature should not help the governor stuff all the money into Idahos mattress.
It should spend some of it now.
Big Tobacco hurt Idahoans. It misled them about the effects of smoking
on their health. It took public money as subsidies that people could ill afford. It shoved
the burden of paying for treating smoking-related illnesses onto individuals and
Big Tobacco killed a lot of people. Theres no way to compensate
those who died painful deaths. Theres no way to restore lost years to their heirs.
Theres no way to pay full restitution to a society that shouldered the economic
There are ways to discourage todays kids from smoking. There are
ways to help adult smokers quit. There are ways to make treatment for addiction more
It took generations for the day of reckoning to arrive for Big Tobacco.
No more time should be wasted, no more lives sacrificed just so the state can accrue a
little interest. Idaho should begin anti-smoking and treatment programs now.