California Attorney General Rob Bonta announces $22 million grant for tobacco reduction programs
Attorney General Rob Bonta announcement Monday that the California Department of Justice will accept proposals for programs that reduce tobacco use through a $22 million tobacco grant program.
The Ministry’s Tobacco Subsidy Program was first launched in 2016 following the adoption of Proposition 56, or the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016. The proposal raised per-pack taxes by $2 statewide, with millions donated each year to further reduce tobacco consumption. Prior to the announcement of the $22 million this year, the state distributed about $151 million in grants to about 330 recipients.
Although many other laws restricting smoking have been passed in the past six years, including one that raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, except for active duty military, to 21, Prop. 56 has become one of California’s leading vehicles for reducing the use of tobacco products among young people. Thanks to these programs, tobacco use in California has dropped since the mid-2010s. According to the most recent statisticsAdult tobacco use in California is only 8.9% compared to 15.5% nationally, while youth use in the state is 5.4% compared to 8.8% nationally. national scale.
“We have a responsibility to protect the health and well-being of our children,” Attorney General Bonta said when announcing the new grants Monday. “We have seen tobacco companies and retailers flouting regulatory oversight in an attempt to encourage underage addiction. Local governments are one of our first lines of defense against the proliferation of tobacco use among children. The California Department of Justice Tobacco Subsidy Program gives these public agencies the funding they need to keep our children healthy and to hold tobacco retailers accountable.
However, with rates continuing to fall, many are wondering where subsidies should go in recent years. Advertisements in particular have been called into question by several studies which have found that many anti-smoking advertisements actually turn againstand others, at best, just don’t work.
“They need to do a better job of where they put the grant money,” Shirley Hull, a Washington anti-tobacco spending researcher, told The Globe on Friday. “They really need to prove that the money they use is reducing their use. Now the California grant money is going specifically to programs that help educate people about the tobacco buying age there, what the laws are, verify retailer compliance, and prosecute those who sell or market tobacco to those under 21 in California. So few ads. And that’s good, because the concern is almost always to throw money with them.
“But even then, there has to be some public oversight. No matter what is chosen for subsidies, citizens need to see not only where the money is going, but also how successful similar programs have been in the past. You can’t just say “This goes to the people checking compliance”, or something like that. We need to see the numbers for how many people have been arrested or how many people they have caught and fined. The attorney general here is vague, and with $22 million at stake, we need specifics.
Grant recipients are expected to be announced later this year. Further details by the Attorney General’s office can be found here.