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Ohio anti-tobacco group to keep funds from lawmakers, gov

COLUMBUS, April 5, 2008 (AP): The board of an anti-tobacco group formed by the General Assembly voted Friday to transfer $190 million into separate non-profit accounts, an attempt to keep the funds out of the reach of Gov. Ted Strickland and legislative leaders who want to instead use them for an economic stimulus plan.

The Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation board also voted to ask Attorney General Marc Dann to appoint special counsel to represent the group.

``The board felt like it was given no choice, but to do whatever it had to do to protect and save Ohio lives,'' Dr. David Rummel, board chairman, said in a statement. ``Any reduction in funding jeopardizes the pocketbooks and lives of Ohioans in every part of the state.

``The foundation supports job creation in Ohio,'' he said. ``We don't believe people have to give their lives to do it.''

The jobs program would create more college internships and co-op programs at businesses in Ohio. It's part of a $1.57 billion economic recovery plan unveiled by Strickland, a Democrat, and Republican legislative leaders earlier this week.

Strickland had planned to take $230 million from the foundation to fund the jobs package, leaving $40 million for anti-tobacco programs.

Strickland, Senate President Bill Harris and House Speaker Jon Husted released a joint statement Friday calling the foundation's actions ``troubling.''

``We will take every step necessary to prevent the foundation from circumventing a bipartisan decision that has been made for the good of all Ohioans,'' the statement said.

The foundation, which seeks to reduce tobacco use by Ohioans by distributing grant money and implementing intervention programs, is governed by a 19-member board appointed by the governor and legislative leaders and four non-voting legislators. It is funded by money from a settlement between tobacco companies and 46 states.

The board's vote divided $190 million among the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Legacy Foundation and the Ohio Hospital Association for Healthy Communities Foundation.

Prevention efforts have helped reduce smoking by more than 40 percent among youths and by about 15 percent among adults, the foundation said.

Ohio's smoking ban, which took effect last year following a statewide vote, prohibits smoking in most public places, including restaurants, bars and offices.

On the Net: http://www.otpf.org






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