COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- It has been 15 years since the $200 billion tobacco settlement was reached. States are getting funds from the settlement for 26 years. Ohio initially took the lead in using the funds to curb smoking, but Ellen Vargyas with Legacy, says a lot has changed.
"Ohio, unfortunately, was also a leader in the nation in undoing that," she said. "It is now dead last amongst the states in terms of spending on tobacco control."
In 2008, then-Gov. Ted Strickland diverted the funds to cover other budget needs in the midst of the Great Recession. It was a move that Vargyas' group challenged in court. The case went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court which ruled in favor of the state.
Vargyas says the state now puts no money toward tobacco cessation. In 2008 Ohio's smoking rate was 20 percent, but Vargyas says it's now up to 23.5 percent.
"Every year the state of Ohio generates about $1.1 billion in tobacco-related revenue through a combination of taxes and Master Settlement Agreement Funds," she said.
The health care costs in Ohio from smoking are estimated to be about $4.3 billion, according to Vargyas. A 2007 report from Legacy found that Ohio's Medicaid system could save $550 million within five years in all Medicaid beneficiaries who smoke, quit.
"It is, certainly in our view, a very penny wise pound foolish way for the state to proceed," she added.
(Photo courtesy Getty Images)