Tucked into the hundreds of pages introduced in Congress to implement a settlement with the nation’s tobacco companies are several little-noticed provisions.
Their intent is to allow some of the money from the proposed $368 billion settlement to be used to subsidize sports and artistic events like stock-car racing and jazz festivals, which have relied on tobacco companies for support.
The notion that money received by the government should be used to pay for those events first appeared in the agreement between the tobacco companies and a group of state attorneys general last year.
There are now two bills that include the idea - one sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; the other by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Under McCain’s bill, the secretary of the health and human services would establish a fund that would disburse grants to groups that used to rely on tobacco company sponsorship and could no longer do so because of the ban on advertising contemplated in the settlement.
Kennedy’s bill would use some of the money in the settlement to pay for block grants to states, which would then subsidize sports events as well as efforts to discourage smoking.
Public Citizen Litigation Group director Alan Morrison said such a use of the money from the settlement was foolish. “These groups knew they were taking tobacco money and they shouldn’t now go crying to the federal Treasury if that money - made from killing 400,000 Americans a year - dries up,” he said.
But Bill Novelli, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an anti-smoking group, said he thought the move was a good idea.”We believe that ‘substitute sponsorship,’ as it’s called, is a good way to wean the nation away from tobacco money,” he said.