Debate and Issues Index

draft settlement

American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate Statement on the Attorneys General Tobacco Settlement

"The American Heart Association is concerned with the tone of this settlement," said American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate Executive Vice President Roman Bowser. "The public should be given no less than 30 days to learn how this agreement will impact them."

While the intended purpose of a tobacco settlement is to settle state legal claims and to provide reimbursement for health care costs, the agreement could have a broader impact on tobacco control policy. Since the tobacco industry has a track record of trying to make deals happen quickly without close scrutiny of the fine print, it is imperative that this obvious strategy be thwarted.

"An agreement of this magnitude should not be made without the input of the AG's constituents and the public health community," Bowser added. "We can certainly understand why the tobacco industry would want to rush this settlement through, the question we have to ask ourselves is why should the state of California want to rush into a settlement that we will govern tobacco control for 25 years?"

The cost of annual Medicaid expenses caused by smoking in California alone is $1.733 billion (in 1993 dollars). Nationally the number is a staggering total of $12.893 billion. Using these figures, the reimbursement for California without any punitive award or adjustment for inflation is $43.3 billion. The figure for the nation would be $322.5 billion. The figures in the settlement appear to be almost half of the actual costs.

"While we haven't had time to comprehensively review the document, a cursory review has already raised some serious questions," said Cass Wheeler, Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association.

Some questions include:

  • Could this agreement pit states against the federal government?
  • Could this agreement keep secret important tobacco industry documents?
  • Could this agreement keep important cases from getting justice?
  • Could this agreement provide advertising loopholes for the tobacco industry?

Wheeler noted, "We don't view this settlement as absolution for the tobacco industry. There are a significant number of issues that directly impact public health that cannot be addressed by the state settlements."

Congressional action is critical to address such issues as the need for FDA authority over tobacco; penalties if tobacco companies fail to curb teen smoking; and appropriate policies for tobacco growing communities and international marketing. In addition, there is still much to do on state and local levels, such as curbing teen access and developing and enforcing clean indoor air policies.

Tobacco related illnesses claim 430,000 lives annually; 42,000 of these deaths occur in California. Nearly half of these deaths are from heart disease and stroke. "Big Tobacco has lied about their products for decades. This settlement, in the eyes of the AHA, is a major admission of guilt by the tobacco industry that their products are deadly," said Wheeler.

For More Information, contact: Marc Burgat, (916) 446-6505