An independent study of anti-smoking efforts reported that 25 percent of Arkansas adults smoke, a level that has remained fairly constant since 1996.
The survey found that the number of teen-agers who smoke has gone down from 43 percent in 1999 to 35 percent in 2001 and to 29 percent in 2003.
Between 16 to 17 percent of pregnant women in Arkansas smoke, according to the 18-month study by the Rand Corporation of Santa Monica, Calif. The state Tobacco Settlement Commission paid the firm to track the effectiveness of the state's anti-smoking measures.
Under the terms of a settlement between the state and major tobacco companies, Arkansas receives between $50 million and $60 million a year from the companies. In Arkansas, the revenue is spent on health care, medical research and programs to prevent smoking.
Almost 30 percent of the annual revenue pays for increased participation in Medicaid, which is a government health care program for the elderly, people with disabilities and the poor.
Another 16 percent is divided between health initiatives for the elderly, minority populations, a health education center in the Delta and a newly-created College of Public Health. About 23 percent goes to the Arkansas Biosciences Institute.
And 31.6 percent of the revenue pays for programs to keep people from smoking.
Arkansas was among 46 states that sued major tobacco companies for money to pay for the health care costs of people who smoke and use tobacco products.
The states argued that smoking drives up the costs of Medicaid and other government health care programs that are paid for with tax revenue.
Arkansas voters in 2000 approved the spending plan that dedicates the state's tobacco money to health-related programs. Unlike other states that have used tobacco revenue to shore up their general revenue budgets, Arkansas spends all of its tobacco funding on health and medical research.
The Rand Company recommended spending less on the Biosciences Institute so as to dedicate more to prevention and cessation programs.
However, members of the Tobacco Settlement Commission expressed reservations about that plan. Later this year the commission will submit detailed recommendations to the governor and the Legislature for consideration during the next regular session.
Speaking of smoking ...
Supporters of a proposed initiated act to legalize medical marijuana turned in fewer than 30,000 valid signatures of registered voters, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
They have another 30 days to collect more. To place the measure on the November general election ballot they must submit at least 64,456 signatures.
The other amendment ...
The Secretary of State announced that a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit same sex marriages will be on the ballot because supporters submitted enough signatures. Supporters of the amendment turned in more than 200,000 signatures.