Some 15 years after tobacco companies agreed to cough up billions of dollars in fines to settle health-care lawsuits nationwide, the details on how state governments have used the cash are pretty hazy, NPR finds. More than $100 billion has been paid out so far, with more than $100 billion yet to come, but while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that at least 14% of the cash go toward anti-smoking programs, experts say it has been hard to persuade state governments to spend much on smoking prevention and most of the cash has been spent elsewhere.
"What states have actually done has fluctuated year by year ... but it's never come close to 14%," says a tobacco industry analyst. "There are some fairly notorious cases of money being used for fixing potholes, for tax relief, [and] for financial assistance for tobacco farmers." Despite the lack of spending, smoking rates have dropped by around a quarter in the 15 years since the landmark settlement—but Big Tobacco hasn't exactly struggled financially. "When you are supplying the most widely used addictive product in the world, you have certain advantages," says the analyst. "Their cash flows remain enormous." (Read more lawsuit stories.)