Judge restores $120 million in tobacco settlement funds to Pa.

    A Common Pleas judge has ruled to restore an estimated $120 million of Pennsylvania’s $335 million tobacco settlement funds for 2014.

    In October, an arbitration panel withdrew the state’s annual funds because it failed to “diligently enforce” laws that require taxation of tobacco companies.

    Judge Patricia McInerney decided that, while the arbitration panel ruling against the state could stand, that portion of the settlement funds should be restored because of inconsistent standards for evaluating states’ compliance nationwide.

    Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia has been slated to receive $2.5 million in the settlement funds this year. In years past, the funding has hastened major research breakthroughs, said Dr. Mark Tykocinski, dean of the college.

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    “At Jefferson, we can point to a series of significant discoveries in the cancer field, in particular, where we’ve directed a lot of the cure funds,” he said.

    Jennifer Ibrahim, an associate professor of public health at Temple University, said she hopes the state will be extra diligent in collecting taxes going forward.

    “I think it’s good news that a portion of the funds are being returned,” she said. “It offers a note of caution to us on the public health side. We know the tobacco industry is going to take advantage of any opportunity to argue for reasons that [the funding] should no longer be made to the state.”

    It’s unclear how the restored 2014 funds will be distributed.

    Pennsylvania has received about $350 million a year to support cancer research, tobacco cessation and other health programs since a 1998 master settlement agreement with tobacco companies.

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