Thanks to immediate budget cuts, Illinois is the only state without a hotline to help smokers who want to quit. You may still see an advertisement for it, but no one is answering at the Illinois Tobacco Quitline, as part of $26 million in grants suspended earlier this month. The Quitline’s funding for the current fiscal year was $3.1 million, but its manager, Michael Mark, says that money wasn’t coming from taxpayers.
Click here for summary
“The Quitline has always been funded the Master Tobacco Settlement recovery fund, never by taxpayer dollars,” Mark said at an Illinois House hearing on the subject this (Wednesday) morning. “The…intent in payments to the states from this fund is to be used to prevent and reduce tobacco use, especially amongst children, and otherwise reduce the tobacco toll.”
State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) questions why funds from the 1998 settlement with tobacco companies won’t be used for anti-smoking programs.
“To think that we still have that funding coming through the state, but not spending it on a tobacco quitline, seems ridiculous to me,” Gabel said.
Mark says the Quitline’s 27 full-time employees, who were on pace to field 110,000 calls during the fiscal year, were laid off last week. Unlike other programs affected by the grant suspension, the Quitline wouldn’t be eliminated in the governor’s proposed budget, but would receive $1 million less than was appropriated in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget.