Both Sides React to Placement of Tobacco Funds Bill on Potential Veto List

Kathy Harty
Kathy Harty
Gregg Takayama
Gregg Takayama

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Should the state dip into its tobacco settlement fund for purposes other than to combat smoking? A bill that would send money to the University of Hawaii medical school is on the Governor's potential veto list. Now, both sides of the issue are chiming in.

When Kathy Harty sees a person enjoying a cigarette, she thinks about her father, a smoker who died from lung cancer 10 years ago.

"He ended up with having a very tough time and died a very painful death," she said. "And I wouldn't want that to happen to anyone."

She wants the Governor to veto a bill that would divert money from Hawaii's tobacco settlement fund to the University of Hawaii to help cover operating expenses at its medical school.

"States who have raided their tobacco control funds for purposes not related to tobacco control have suffered the consequences," Harty said. "Tobacco rates have soared, particularly among young people."

But UH officials hope the measure won't go up in smoke. They say while contracts and grants income at the school has increased, the jump hasn't been enough to cover costs.

"No one foresaw that for the past three or four years, however, that the amount of research funding at the federal level would actually diminish," Gregg Takayama, University of Hawaii, said. "The competition for research funds has been fierce."

He says using money from the tobacco fund makes sense.

"Our medical students and faculty deal directly with the consequences of tobacco, with tobacco smoking," Takayama said. "And so this bears a direct correlation with the intent of the tobacco fund."

The Governor has until July 10th to decide whether to veto the bill.