Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed March 11, 1999
Contact: Scott Turner

Free program to explore spending R.I.'s $1.4-billion tobacco settlement

The public is invited to a free program about spending Rhode Island's $1.4-billion share of the tobacco settlement. Four speakers will propose ideas and discuss tobacco as a health problem at 4 p.m. Friday, March 19, in Room 202 of the Brown University Bio-Medical Center, 171 Meeting St.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Rhode Island can use its share of the tobacco settlement funds to improve health care or disperse the money to cover a phase-out of the automobile excise tax. Those are two of many ideas for spending the $1.4 billion the state will receive over the next 25 years from the recent settlement between the nation's tobacco companies and 46 states. To learn about options for the settlement money and tobacco as a health problem, the public may attend a free program at 4 p.m. Friday, March 19, in Room 202 of the Brown University Bio-Medical Center, 171 Meeting St.

The event will feature four 15-minute presentations on policy implications and use of the settlement funds, tobacco research, smoking and health problems in the community, and programs in smoking prevention and cessation.

The first speaker will be Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty, who will outline his proposal to create a trust fund in support of health care. Since unveiling the legislation last December, Fogarty has been joined by a host of state lawmakers and more than 70 groups in support of using settlement payments to address unmet health care needs. His legislation also calls for using part of the money for programs to decrease tobacco use and to mitigate the effects of tobacco-related diseases.

"If you establish priorities, the funding will fall in behind," Fogarty said. "This is a chance for home health care versus being placed in a nursing home; lead abatement versus lead poisoning. We think people will say they want to invest in quality health care for Rhode Island."

The next speaker will be David Abrams, who will present a national perspective on the impact of tobacco. Abrams is a professor of psychiatry and human behavior and director of the Brown University Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine. For two years, he has chaired the Cancer Control Review Panel for the National Cancer Institute (NCI). He has also served on the Consensus Panel that developed the Tobacco Research Plan for the NCI and the nation.

Abrams will be followed by Thomas Lasater, who will speak about the health-risk consequences communities face because of smoking. Lasater is a professor of community health, director of research for the Brown University Center for Primary Care and Prevention and president-elect of the Rhode Island Public Health Association.

The final speaker will be Steve Schoenbaum, president of Harvard-Pilgrim Health Care of New England. The HMO is a national leader in covering patients who join smoking cessation programs and in promoting those programs.

The presentations will be followed by a 15-minute question-and-answer session and a reception. The program, titled "Prevention in the Community," will include a poster session on public health research from 3 to 4 p.m. on the second floor of the Bio-Medical Center.

The event is sponsored by the Brown University Public Health Program. For more information, call (401) 863-3490.