LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- This year, Arkansas received more than 50 million dollars from cigarette companies. Arkansas is one of the few states that use all our money for health purposes. The majority of funds go toward preventing tobacco use but the rest is divided up among health resources.
Ed Barham with the Department of Health says tobacco continues to be the leading cause of death and preventable disease in the state. Barham says, "Our state is doing better when it comes to tobacco use, but there is much room to improve."
The funds from the tobacco settlement are supposed to help with that. The state voted in 2000 to use the money on tobacco prevention methods and other health programs. Barham says it pays for 26 nurses and a public health promotions specialist.
"They work on all sorts of nursing services like immunizations for mass clinics like we just did for flu season and all that could not be done without them being funded by this tobacco money."
So, here's where the money went in 2012:
More than $14 million went toward preventing tobacco use. $2 million of that targeted to minority communities. Now, just over $7 million is divided up among the school of public health, delta area health education center and aging centers across the state. More than $10 million goes to the state's bio-science institute, which leaves 13 and a half million for the Medicaid expansion program.
Barham says, "In 2000 the voters said we want this money to be spent on health related expenses and we don't want it on other projects we want it on health and that's what set us apart from most the other states, in fact we are the only state in America that does this and it really sets us apart."
In comparison, Barham says other states use their tobacco settlement to help cover budget shortfalls. Ed Barham also says by using the money in all areas of health it still helps out the problem with tobacco indirectly. And the stats show its working because there are 100 thousand fewer Arkansans smoking than in 2002.