Nevadans want settlement funds used to cut teen smoking [and for seniors health care]

Las Vegas SUN May 17, 1999

CARSON CITY (AP) - Most Nevadans want the state's share of the national tobacco settlement used to reduce smoking rates and to help low-income seniors, the American Cancer Society says.

The society based its comments on a survey of 631 registered Nevada voters by Mason-Dixon Research of Washington, D.C. The phone survey had an error margin of 4 percentage points.

"Health care for seniors and efforts to reduce tobacco use among kids are favored by eight out of 10 Nevadans," said Dan Geary of the Cancer Society. "Nevada's elected officials should study these results carefully and enact the state's first comprehensive tobacco control program."

Lawmakers, now in the final two weeks of the 1999 session, are still working out the details on how to use Nevada's share of the settlement, about $40 million a year.

Geary said the Cancer Society favors SB370, which calls for an aggressive effort to cut smoking rates in Nevada and to help with health care and prescriptions for low-income seniors.

Gov. Kenny Guinn wants to spend half of Nevada's share of the settlement on college scholarships. While it's facing less resistance from lawmakers than it had earlier, the "Millennium Scholarship" plan is still opposed by some groups who say the money should go into health programs.

Guinn's plan calls for giving up to $1,250 for community college tuition or $2,500 for university fees to any Nevada high school graduate with a 3.0 grade point average enrolling in the state's higher education system.

Ed Finn of the American Association of Retired Persons has suggested a third of the money for scholarships, with the rest for health care programs.

And Jan Gilbert of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada says all of the money needs to go to Nevada's ill-funded health programs. She says leaders in 20 other states are advocating that the tobacco money be used to improve health care.

She's backed by representatives of the Nevada Disability Forum, Nevada Women's Lobby, Nevada Empowered Women's Project and other groups.

The Mason-Dixon poll shows 79 percent of those questioned favor spending a significant cut of the money on efforts to reduce tobacco use among young people.

Of those surveyed, 78 percent favored using the money on health care for seniors, 70 percent favored building schools and hiring teachers, 66 percent favored alcohol and drug abuse prevention, and 64 percent favored tax relief.