|Complicating Ohio's anti-smoking efforts, legislators have diverted $560 million in anti-tobacco settlement funding to plug holes in the state's budget.
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The state-mandated review comes as the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation’s original five-year, $50 million contract with Northlich, Cincinnati, is set to expire Dec. 31. A new request for proposals sent to Ohio agencies last week covers a new three-year integrated-marketing campaign at slightly increased funding levels for a total of $31.5 million.
“Northlich has done a phenomenal job for the foundation with the ‘Stand’ campaign, which has been nationally recognized,” said a spokeswoman for the foundation. “The bidding process is an open, objective process we need to go through to ensure we’re using our money as wisely as possible and that other companies have an opportunity to bid.”
The review doesn’t cover the smaller Ohio Quit Line program to promote a toll-free help line for those who want to kick the tobacco habit, which is also handled by Northlich. Nor does it cover a separate concurrent review for an interactive agency to revamp the foundation’s Web sites.
The foundation is looking to shift its anti-smoking focus from strictly teens ages 12 to 17 to encompass a separate effort targeting young adults up to age 24. Research in Ohio and nationally shows smoking rates have started to rise, the spokeswoman said.
But the foundation faces targeting more people with less money. A new two-year state budget enacted June 30 taps the remaining $216 million the foundation was to have received from Ohio’s $10 billion in tobacco-litigation settlement payments over 26 years.
Legislators divert funds
Though the foundation received $330 million from the settlement fund in 2001, Ohio has since diverted more than $560 million in additional funding to plug various holes in the state budget, with non-binding promises to eventually repay the money.
So far, the foundation board has opted to maintain planned spending levels even if it means tapping into its original $330 million endowment, which is now down to about $300 million. Overall, across all of its anti-smoking efforts, the foundation spent about $38 million last year and currently plans to do the same this year.
“What our board is going to have to struggle with in early August is whether you continue to spend at a relevant level and dip into your principal and eventually go out of business or do you spend just investment income and have a less-relevant level of spending,” the spokeswoman said. “If the RFP has to be altered because of that decision, we’ll notify everyone immediately.”
The RFP calls for initial applications for eligibility to be filed by July 27, full proposals by Aug. 19, oral presentations on Sept. 9 and a contract award by Oct. 7.
Campaign attacks MTV
The “Stand” campaign by Northlich, launched in 2001, has included a wide range of TV, cinema, radio and outdoor ads in addition to an extensive PR effort in and outside of schools. Among the elements of the campaign have been radio ads featuring youths calling MTV executives to ask them to stop showing videos that glorify smoking.
A Research Triangle Institute survey last year recently found 39% unaided and 86% aided recall of the Stand campaign among Ohio youths 11-17. RTI found adult smoking rates in Ohio declined from 27.7% to 26% since the campaign began in 2001. A separate state study found a decline from 33.4% to 25.7% in high-school-age smoking rates between 2000 and 2002.