tobacco

Sarah Long / Joyful Photography

Funding cuts and changes for children’s programs across the state became a reality at the start of this month — and that means fewer Kansas families will receive some services.

An official with TARC, a Shawnee County organization that serves people with developmental disabilities, said the nonprofit was out of options for administrative cuts in the wake of state funding reductions.

Courtesy Topeka USD 501

Parents as Teachers is receiving the same amount of funding in Kansas as it did last year, but program administrators are concerned they will not be able to continue helping some families due to new rules.

The Legislature this year approved a switch in the funding source for Parents as Teachers from the Children’s Initiatives Fund, a state pool of money paid by tobacco companies, to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) , a federal fund best known for providing cash assistance for a limited time.

Courtesy Coffeyville USD 445

Children’s programs across the state are scrambling to deal with grant cuts that take effect at the start of July.

The cuts come from a $3.3 million reduction in funding for the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, which uses the state’s share of the 1998 master settlement agreement with large tobacco companies to provide grants through the Children’s Initiatives Fund for programs for children and families.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

The Overland Park City Council on Monday set 21 as the minimum age to buy tobacco products, meaning that a regional campaign has now upped the legal age in the metropolitan area’s five largest cities.

The council approved the ordinance Monday on a 9-3 vote, with council members Dave Janson, Fred Spears and Dan Stock voting against the measure.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas health advocates lauded the Food and Drug Administration’s decision Thursday to regulate electronic cigarettes, while those in the vaping industry pointed to harm to businesses and people trying to quit smoking.

The FDA announced that it would ban selling or giving free samples of e-cigarettes and their nicotine cartridges, cigars, hookahs and pipe tobacco to people younger than 18. Kansas law already forbids the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

Kansas officials got the bad news they were expecting Wednesday.

After reading the economic tea leaves and noting that state tax collections have been short of expectations in 11 of the past 12 months, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group reduced its revenue projections for this budget year and the next by $228.6 million.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A correctional officer stands accused of smuggling tobacco, drugs and other contraband into the Leavenworth Detention Center, U.S. Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom announced Monday.

“Inmates could have their choice of vices,” Grissom said at a news conference. “Everything from methamphetamine to tobacco.”

Anthon Aiono, 28, of Platte City, Missouri, has been charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, providing methamphetamine to inmates, providing synthetic marijuana to inmates and providing tobacco products to inmates.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Over the past several months, teams of local health advocates have been making their way from one local city to another, lobbying city leaders to raise the legal age for the purchase of tobacco to 21.

Since its launch last October, Tobacco 21, a coalition made up of business, government and health groups, has run up a string of victories in some of the area’s largest cities, including Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas; and Olathe, Kansas.

But the reception they got in Gardner, Kansas, on March 21 was a first.

Marius Mellebye / Creative Commons-Flickr

Two Johnson County, Kansas, cities took opposing actions on tobacco control Monday evening.

The Prairie Village City Council voted unanimously to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21, while the Gardner city council rejected a similar proposal by a unanimous vote of 5-0.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A leading child advocate has obtained a document that she says confirms state officials are considering a deal to securitize the state’s tobacco settlement payments.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Kansas Action for Children, raised concerns about a possible securitization deal earlier in the week in testimony to a Senate committee. At the time, she said a reliable source had told her that officials in Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration had discussed bonding future settlement payments in exchange for a one-time cash payment.

Heartland Health Monitor

No one speaking Tuesday to the Senate Ways and Means Committee argued the Legislature could be trusted to direct funds to their intended purpose.

The only question was what arrangement would make it least likely that lawmakers would use funds for children’s programs, highways and other designated purpose instead to plug holes in the state general fund budget.

File photo

This story was updated at 4:13 p.m.

Missouri has settled a dispute over the terms of a multibillion settlement with the big tobacco companies that has cost it tens of millions of dollars over the last dozen or so years.

Attorney General Chris Koster announced the settlement Monday, saying it will allow the state to recoup $50 million it lost in arbitration and preserve millions of dollars in future payments.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Several nonprofit organizations that advocate for children, minorities and low-income Kansans are concerned about what they see as a trend toward less open government in Kansas.

Now they’ve joined forces to launch what they’re calling the Open Kansas initiative and to ask legislators to sign a “transparency pledge” to taxpayers. The pledge commits those who sign it to support:

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Around a quarter of adults in Wyandotte County, Kansas, smoke. That’s about twice the rate in Johnson County and well above the state average. Wyandotte County’s government recently created a coalition of partners to find ways to address the problem. For the latest in our series KC Checkup, we talked with Rebecca Garza, coordinator of Tobacco Free Wyandotte, who began by explaining the significance of  Kansas City, Kansas’ recent decision to raise the legal age for the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21.

Creative Commons-Pixabay

Independence, Missouri, on Monday became the third major municipality in the Kansas City area to raise the legal age of sale for tobacco products to 21 from 18.

Following similar votes in the last two months by Kansas City, Missouri, and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, the Independence City Council approved the measure by a 6-1 vote at a council meeting last night.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles previewing health-related issues that the Kansas Legislature will face in its upcoming 2016 session.

The 2015 session of the Kansas Legislature began with a budget crisis and Gov. Sam Brownback proposing a large hike in the state tobacco tax to help solve it.

The 2016 session is set to begin in January with the budget again in need of patching. But the kind of tobacco tax increase anti-smoking advocates believe would spur Kansans to kick the habit is less likely.

BigStock

The governing bodies of both Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, voted Thursday to raise the legal age for buying tobacco and electronic nicotine-vapor products from 18 to 21 in their communities.

Advocates have said studies indicate that as many as 95 percent of adult smokers say they started smoking prior to age 21. 

They also have pointed to studies showing that 18-year-old smokers often become the “connection” for younger members of their high school social network, some as young as 14.

MARIUS MELLEBYE / CREATIVE COMMONS-FLICKR

A Kansas City Council committee on Wednesday approved three anti-smoking measures that critics said wrongly include electronic cigarettes and premium cigars.

Taken together, the three ordinances raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco products and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 and add e-cigarettes, also known as vapes, to the city’s ban on indoor smoking, including in so-called vape shops that sell them.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Supporters of banning the sale of cigarettes to teens and young adults in the Kansas City area may be close to landing their first major coup.

On Monday night, a legislative committee of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, one of the region’s largest municipalities, endorsed revising its legal code to ban the sale of cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21. The current age under state law is 18.

 The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City is out with a new report that looks back at the successes and setbacks of the last decade when it comes to the region's health. We discuss the report's findings on healthy eating and active living, tobacco prevention, oral health, behavioral health and physical health.

Guests:

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Business and health leaders on Thursday announced an ambitious initiative to convince elected officials in the dozens of municipalities throughout the Kansas City area to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21.

Spearheaded by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, “Tobacco 21 | KC” aims to build on a movement that now counts nearly 100 communities around the country and the state of Hawaii that have made 21 the legal age for purchasing tobacco products.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Studies have shown that nearly half of the cigarettes consumed in the United States are smoked by people thought to have a mental illness.

At the same time, people who have a mental illness die an average of 25 years earlier than those who don’t have a mental illness.

“There’s a really big disparity in who’s smoking and in who’s dying,” said Kim Richter, who runs the tobacco cessation program at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

“And we as a society haven’t really done anything about this,” she said. “We really need to turn this around.”

KHI News Service photo

The cigarette tax increase Kansas legislators approved in June to help close a budget gap has not dissuaded people from buying smokes in Kansas — at least not yet.

The state cigarette tax climbed from 79 cents per pack to $1.29 per pack on July 1, an increase of 63 percent. Tax revenue from cigarette sales for July 2015 was up 64 percent over July 2014, which means people purchased about the same amount of cigarettes in Kansas as they did before the tax hike, if the underlying cost of a pack of cigarettes stayed relatively close to last year’s price. (Data on the average price of a pack of cigarettes in Kansas last month is not yet available.)

That’s significant, because the prospect of higher taxes spurring Kansans to quit was used as an argument both for and against the tax hike.

Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

Kansas and Missouri are in the bottom half of the class in a new report from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

The report, “How Do You Measure Up,” judges states on a variety of policies related to cancer control and prevention. It uses a traffic signal color scheme to indicate state legislative progress: green for a positive trend, red for serious shortcomings and yellow for somewhere between.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Special interests have long eyed Missouri’s lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax as a potential pot of gold, if only voters would agree to hike the 17-cent-per-pack levy and direct the windfall to health and education programs.

Yet tax-hike advocates have failed narrowly at the polls three times going back to 2002, and the landscape is not much different as another campaign girds for battle next year.

File photo

It’s over.

Republican legislators from the House and Senate mustered just enough votes to pass a $400 million tax increase Friday and end the historic 2015 session.

The session traditionally lasts 90 days. Friday was the 113th, as both chambers struggled to get Republican supermajorities to approve a substantial tax hike.

The final plan raises the state sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent. Senators ultimately gave up on a quest to tax groceries at a lower rate.

Mark Lennihan / AP

While health advocates cling to the possibility of Kansas lawmakers using a large tobacco tax increase to help solve the state budget crisis, Statehouse momentum is heading toward a much smaller increase — or none at all.

Groups like the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the University of Kansas Cancer Center praised Gov. Sam Brownback’s January proposal to raise cigarette taxes by $1.50 per pack and smokeless tobacco taxes by a similarly large amount.

A couple of items relevant to public health and the health insurance industry are in the mix as lawmakers seek a tax plan that will allow them to end the 2015 session.

Kansas legislators need to locate between $400 million and $500 million in new revenue to fund the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. As the House and Senate move toward the 90th day of the legislative session, most debate has focused on how much of that new revenue should come from rolling back income tax cuts passed in 2012  and how much should come from new sales taxes.

KHI News Service

The chairman of the Senate committee working on a plan to address the projected budget deficit in Kansas is confident that a tobacco tax increase will be a part of the final package.

However, public health advocates are concerned that the increase won’t end up being large enough to significantly lower smoking rates and reduce expenditures on smoking-related illnesses. They continue to favor a proposal that Gov. Sam Brownback announced at the beginning of the session to increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Advocates of raising Kansas’ tobacco tax made one last push Monday during a rally at the Statehouse, with a prominent physician saying cancer will overwhelm the state’s health care system if the tax isn’t raised.

Legislators will look this week at options for raising $400 million to $500 million to close a budget gap and end the 2015 session.

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