I would still like to do a longer piece sometime on Mr. Butts, the great anti-tobacco character that Garry Trudeau invented 20 or 30 years ago in Doonesbury.
Trudeau brought Mr. Butts out of the closet Sunday for a great cartoon on the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. One of the great frustration with the $280 billion settlement is that everyone assumed the money being paid out to the states (to offset Medicaid and other health care costs generated by tobacco use) would go toward anti-tobacco education. Well, unfortunately, there was nothing in the agreement mandating that the money had to go to anti-tobacco education. A fair chunk of it did get spent for that use initially, but eventually, more and more states figured out they could send it however they wanted.
Eventually, the money got used as a catch-all windfall — A way for states to increase their budgets while avoiding increasing property taxes, etc. I’m not completely down on the 1998 MSA because some good did come out of, but this was a huge lost opportunity.
Anyway, Trudeau, through tobacco spokesman Mr. Butts, points out to the Sunday comics readers that only 1.9 percent of the MSA settlement dollars has been spent on anti-tobacco education. Good for Trudeau for publicizing this and keeping up his long fight against Big Tobacco.