Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening deserves praise for his plan to make effective use of the money coming from the tobacco settlement ["Md. Plan Targets Smoking," Metro, June 4]. The District's mayor and council would do well to take some guidance from him.
Glendening wants to invest the $4.4 billion his state will receive in tobacco settlement monies during the next 25 years in promoting better health for Marylanders through cancer research, public health education, prevention programs and services to help those addicted to tobacco.
The District desperately needs to plan equally as well for the effective use of the $40 million to $50 million it will receive from the settlement during each of the next 25 years. The District's lung cancer death rate, according to a 1995 report by the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association, was 60.8 per 100,000 population, while the national rate was 38.5. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 1997 23 percent of D.C. high school students smoked.
Only a carefully designed and long-term anti-tobacco plan can make a difference in the District. The D.C. Coalition on the Tobacco Settlement urges that the funds be used on prevention, health education and treatment for addiction, and not for capital construction or to supplement other funds.
Programs should focus on those residents most in need and on interventions that have been proven to work. The American Public Health Association guidelines recommend that at least 30 percent of the settlement funds be directed to community and school-based prevention, with an additional 20 percent going to smoking cessation programs.
To ensure the good health of its citizens, the District, like Maryland, needs to have a plan -- one that includes a prevention trust fund, increased cigarette taxes and vigorous enforcement of the law against selling tobacco products to minors.
-- Sam Seeman
is past president of the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association.