WASHINGTON, D.C.-Last year's $206 billion tobacco settlement may produce fewer opportunities for ad agencies than previously thought as states propose using the money to reduce taxes and build schools rather than combat smoking.
The Tobacco Control Foundation, however, a separate entity that will wield a $250 million budget for anti-smoking efforts over the next 10 years, has moved closer to issuing agency questionnaires.
Only four states-Washington, Maryland, Montana and Virginia-will spend more than a minimal amount on smoking prevention. Seventeen states have proposed spending less than 2 percent of their settlement money to reduce tobacco use, with the rest undecided, according to a report released last week by the Washington, D.C., advocacy group, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Anti-tobacco advocates hope Congress will direct states to spend the settlement windfall on anti-smoking campaigns and health issues. The Senate last month kept alive an amendment allowing the states free rein on how to allocate their money.
One pot of gold for agencies remains certain, as plans move forward to form the 11-member board of the Tobacco Control Foundation, established as part of the settlement. The board will be chaired by Washington state Attorney General Christine Gregoire, and will likely include the governors of Delaware and Utah, the attorney general of Kansas, a North Carolina state representative, a Michigan physician and five anti-smoking experts, sources said. The board is expected to discuss a call for proposals within the next two months.
Shops with relevant experience, like Asher & Partners in Los Angeles and Crispin Porter & Bogusky in Miami, are stepping up to the plate. "We are putting our name in the hat," said Christine Steele, an Asher senior vice president.
Crispin president Jeff Hicks said his agency was also holding talks with some states, but he declined to identify them. ƒ