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Conflicting Views of Health Education

The wording of Proposition 99 creating the Health Education Account stated only that funds were to be available “for appropriation for programs for the prevention and reduction of tobacco use, primarily among children, through school and community health education programs.” No agency was given responsibility for the Health Education program, and one of the important questions to be addressed was how much money would go to health departments and how much would be given to schools.

A broad outline for tobacco education was available. At the urging of public health activists, in February 1988, prior to the Proposition 99 election, Senator Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) had introduced Senate Bill 2133, the Tobacco Use Prevention Act, to begin planning the implementation of Proposition 99 tobacco education programs. The bill required that the Department of Health Services (DHS) develop a program to reduce tobacco use in California through a multifaceted approach that, for the first time, combined mass media advertising with community-based interventions on a large scale. John Miller, Watson's primary staffer on the bill, was particularly committed to an anti-smoking media campaign. Miller “wanted to hire the same guys who sold cigarettes to unsell them.”[9]

The voluntary health agencies and ANR supported the bill. Proponents clearly did not understand the tobacco industry's well-developed strategy of working through intermediaries. Miller even wrote Watson, “It does not appear that the tobacco lobby will try to kill 2133.”[10] The tobacco industry maintained a low profile, preferring to let the California Chamber of Commerce, California Manufacturers' Association, and the California Taxpayers Association lead the formal opposition, although the Tobacco Institute formally opposed the bill late in the legislative process.

Although Governor George Deukmejian vetoed the bill after the


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Legislature passed it, SB 2133 provided health groups with an early opportunity to assert their vision of what the state's anti-tobacco education program should look like if Proposition 99 passed. Had it been signed into law, a program to implement Proposition 99 would have been in place when the initiative passed, which might have avoided the problems that arose when its proponents returned to the Legislature to seek implementing legislation after they passed Proposition 99 at the polls. As it was, several different organizations advanced competing plans for how to spend this money after the election.

The ALA wanted to see the Health Education Account spent in accordance with the basic elements of SB 2133 but with three changes: (1) at least 50 percent of the Health Education Account should target students eighteen or younger, (2) there should be no “sunset clause,” which ended the spending authority for the current provisions on July 1, 1999, and required further legislative action, and (3) a provision should be added to make anti-tobacco education a mandated program, meaning that the Legislature would require local public agencies to participate and they would receive money for doing so.[11]

The California Department of Education (CDE) wanted to broaden the focus of the program beyond direct anti-tobacco education, arguing that “the same pressures and reasons which cause young people to smoke are those which cause them to use drugs and alcohol, become sexually active, consider suicide or adopt obsessive eating habits. The skills needed to prevent drug abuse, improve nutritional selections, abstain from sexual activities, and engage in lifelong physical activity are the same skills needed to prevent tobacco use.”[12] CDE's specific plan was to have the funds administered by the new Office of Healthy Kids, Healthy California, which had been set up to concentrate health education programs within CDE. CDE wanted the money distributed in five ways: (1) award grants to all districts on an entitlement basis to implement comprehensive health education programs with a smoking prevention component, (2) make available effective smoking prevention curricula and materials, (3) provide training on implementing smoking prevention education in the context of a comprehensive health education program, (4) design and implement a media campaign for the classroom and public media, and (5) establish an advisory committee.

DHS, on the other hand, proposed a program completely inside DHS, with grants going to local agencies, including schools, to implement programs for the target populations.


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The California Association of School Health Educators (CASHE) suggested a program that was prepared by Ric Loya, executive secretary of CASHE, and Alan Henderson, board member of CASHE. The program had six major components: (1) an independent commission to oversee program implementation with its own staff and budget appointed by the governor, Legislature, and CDE, (2) funding based on applications for school and agency programs run by credentialed health educators, (3) training support, (4) demonstration projects, (5) educational research, and (6) an incentive program to encourage smoke-free schools.[12]

ACS, in conjunction with CASHE, proposed that $30 million of the Health Education Account go toward funding mandatory health education. The remaining money was to fund block grants to the County Offices of Education to carry out education programs.

AHA recommended that at least half of the money go to mandating and implementing comprehensive school health programs in public and private schools. The remainder of the money was to go to other education outreach programs. AHA made no recommendations about program administration.[13]

Those outside the education establishment worried that money given to schools might not be used for tobacco education, and the early proposals advanced by CDE and CASHE, the school health educators, did little to alleviate this concern. When he was interviewed in 1995, Steve Thompson, who was head of the Assembly Office of Research in 1989 and a key agent for Speaker Willie Brown in the Proposition 99 negotiations, remembered that “there was a great deal of skepticism, based on previous performance, that putting money into the school systems was going to have much impact.”[14] Miller and Najera were similarly disenchanted with the CDE proposal, advanced by Robert Ryan, head of the Office of Healthy Kids, Healthy California, and Bill White, his deputy, to put the money into “healthy kids, healthy this, healthy everything.” Miller recalled, “We kept saying, `How are you going to account for what the hell you're doing with tobacco?' And that became a real sore subject and concern of those of us who wanted to make sure that that money bought tobacco control programs in school systems in California.”[15]

In submitting different proposals on how to implement the Health Education Account, the three voluntary health agencies were clearly not cooperating on implementation of the initiative. Tensions between the three agencies continued to build over the next several months and weakened their political position in the coming legislative debates.


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