Campaign Slashed

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Campaign Slashed

RICHMOND, Va. -- A campaign aimed at discouraging Virginia's youth from smoking will be scaled back because of the state's fiscal crisis.

The Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation's board of trustees voted yesterday to reduce its projected budget for the next two years, cutting its spending on tobacco-prevention advertising, research and grants to civic and school groups. The cuts adjust for the loss of $15.5 million the General Assembly took from the foundation's coffers this year to help fill the state's budget hole.

"We're in a drought," Steven Danish, chairman of the foundation's 23-member board, told the Richmond (Va.) Times Dispatch.. He said the cuts are designed to be "as painless as possible" for the foundation's mission.

Under legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1999, the foundation controls 10 percent of Virginia's payout from the 1998 multistate settlement with major cigarette companies. Virginia's share of the $206 billion settlement is estimated at $4 billion over 25 years, and the foundation gets about $14 million a year.

Last year, the foundation began offering grants to civic groups and schools across the state for programs that encourage healthy lifestyles and discourage youth tobacco use. It also has given grants to state universities for research into nicotine addiction and the causes of youth smoking.

This year, the foundation started a three-year, $28 million, anti-tobacco advertising campaign. The campaign, which includes radio and television ads, a Web site, billboards and a concert series, will be cut to about $24.7 million by eliminating some airtime. The foundation also cut its projected grants to civic and school groups by about 18 percent, and its research grants by about 15 percent.

Even with the cuts, the foundation will be able to continue supporting the grant programs already under way, but it won't be able to expand those programs, foundation officials said.