In the Spotlight

News & Features
Go to Session 2003
DocumentSession 2003
DocumentBudget and Taxes
DocumentHigher Education
DocumentK-12 Education
DocumentHealth and Welfare
DocumentPublic Safety
More from MPR
Your Voice

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
"Target Market" targeted to disappear
Larger view
A wallhanging created by teen members of "Target Market" in St Paul. (MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been clear that he intends to use the three anti-tobacco endowments to help bridge the state's more than $4 billion deficit. The Legislature must still approve the plan, but using money from the state's tobacco settlement is likely to pass if other states' actions are indicators. While the governor says there will still be money appropriated for helping those addicted quit smoking and preventing others from starting, there's one group that'll disappear: "Target Market," a program for teenagers.

St. Paul, Minn. — Gov. Pawlenty says he has no other choice but to use the $1.1 billion in tobacco endowments to balance the state's budget. Nevertheless, he says he'd use only part of the tobacco settlement money which won't snuff out all anti-tobacco programs. "The state has permanent payments. We're also going to somewhat benefit from the money that Blue Cross Blue Shield got -- some $400 million they're spending on health-related purposes. There's a court-ordered group called the MPAAT (Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco) that the state has nothing to do with that got a quarter of a billion dollars; there's also spending for anti-tobacco and smoking cessation programs," says Pawlenty.

Larger view
Image Hopkins sophomore Rhea Pappas

MPAAT, Blue Cross and other health projects, however, don't target teenagers. But teen smoking habits were detailed in documents exposed during the state's trial that showed tobacco companies were studying children because the overwhelming majority of smokers begin before age 18. As a result, architects of the Minnesota settlement created "Target Market", a program by teenagers for teenagers that doesn't harp about the dangers of smoking, but publicizes how the tobacco companies privately viewed young people.

"Target Market is pleased to announce tobacco company of the year. An award that recognizes deception and manipulation. This year's recipient, Philip Morris..." A portion of a "Target Market" radio ad

Target Market's 16 year old Hopkins sophomore Rhea Pappas says she's upset that the government appears to have shut down the organization so easily. She says teens who work on "Target Market" should've been able to make their case directly to the governor or the legislature.

"It was like they didn't care to hear our side," Pappas says. "We didn't even get to tell him what progress we've made how we've reduced smoking overall by 11%; and for me that's amazing. And to shut down something like that for me is so hard to believe."

"It's a question of setting priorities. And like everything else, these programs sound good, they do a lot of good. But if you're going to solve a $4.5 billion budget deficit, some things (have) got to go."
- Gov. Tim Pawlenty

The state was in a completely different economic climate when it and Blue Cross Blue Shield settled its case with the tobacco industry five years ago. Then, legislators were debating how to spend a $1.9 billion surplus not fill a $4.5 billion deficit as they are today. Pawlenty says the state is broke.

"It's a question of setting priorities. And like everything else, these programs sound good, they do a lot of good. But if you're going to solve a $4.5 billion budget deficit, some things (have) got to go. And as we looked around as the core missions of state government, this wasn't one of them," Pawlenty says.

But Rosemount senior Aeriel Anderson, 17, of "Target Market" says Pawlenty's plan is shortsighted budgetarily given that health care one of the state's major costs.

"Right now Pawlenty is focused on the short-term. And while that's helpful in not raising taxes, it's not beneficial for long term health issues facing a budget deficit again; and in the long run, with health care rising again," Anderson says.

While Minnesota blazed a trail in its landmark case against the tobacco industry, it is following a path of states that are using tobacco settlement money to plug deficits. The exceptions include: Mississippi, one of the nation's poorest states; and Maine, a state whose budget deficit is one-quarter Minnesota's but also has one-quarter of Minnesota's population.

"Target Market" is scheduled to end Apr. 30.

MPR reporter Laura McCallum contributed to this report

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects