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Sabatini vows to find the funds


ANNAPOLIS -- The state's top health official has vowed to find the money for an anti-smoking media campaign this year, despite attempts by legislators and the tobacco industry to restrict spending on the project.

"I'll find it," said health secretary Nelson J. Sabatini, who himself quit smoking several months ago. "We will look through other appropriations throughout the health department to see where we can squeeze some money out and move that money into the cancer fund," he said yesterday.

The state had planned to launch a $3 million, three-year media blitz against smoking and other behaviors that cause cancer. Gov. William Donald Schaefer made fighting cancer a top priority, since Maryland has the worst cancer rate in the nation.

In the waning days of the 1992 General Assembly session, budget negotiators approved an amendment that essentially shifted money from cancer prevention to treatment of patients who already have the disease.

They restricted to $250,000 the amount of money the anti-cancer campaign could spend on media, advertising and public relations, a decision applauded by tobacco industry lobbyists.

The restriction applies only to a $5 million appropriation for the governor's cancer initiative. Mr. Sabatini plans to work around that by finding another $750,000 elsewhere in his already lean budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That would provide a total of $1 million for the first year of the media blitz. He said he did not know how he would pay for the other two years.

Governor Schaefer yesterday lashed out at the tobacco industry for trying to derail his anti-cancer efforts.

"How I had to have such a battle to get money to go for cancer, cancer research and cancer prevention -- I just don't understand it. That's the power of the tobacco industry through their lobbyists," he said.

Bruce C. Bereano, an influential lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute, was quite willing to take the blame for restricting the media campaign.

Why does the tobacco industry oppose anti-smoking efforts, especially since some, like Mr. Bereano, claim they don't work?

You would too, Mr. Bereano replied, "if you were selling a lawful product, where jobs and livelihoods rely on its manufacture and sale, and it was very heavily taxed, and the government said it would use tax dollars to stop people from using the lawful product."

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