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draft settlement

Lung Association Asks Attorneys General To Oppose New Tobacco Settlement

The American Lung Association calls on the attorneys general across America to reject the latest tobacco settlement. It does too little to protect public health and too much to protect tobacco industry profits.

Based on our initial reading of the document, obtained on the Internet, it is not surprising that the tobacco industry wants each attorney general to sign the deal after only a few days for review. It is clear to understand why the tobacco industry does not want the public health community, legal experts, the public and the media to have 30 days to evaluate all the terms of the proposal, as we and many others have requested. What is NOT clear is why any attorney general would sign this deal. It is not a settlement, it is a partnership agreement between the tobacco companies and the attorneys general that allows Big Tobacco to continue its nefarious business as usual.

For weeks, the negotiating attorneys general have called this settlement "Minnesota Plus." They implied it would be stronger than the landmark Minnesota settlement. Unfortunately, it is weaker than the Minnesota agreement. The only "plus" is the collection of extra goodies protecting the tobacco industry.

Once again, the tobacco industry has negotiated favorable terms to protect its own bottom line. Instead of simply settling their pending claims against the tobacco industry, the attorneys general are taking unprecedented steps by committing their state legislatures to passing laws that will protect tobacco industry profits and maintain market share for specific brands.

There are no public health benefits to be gained if states collude with the tobacco lobby to pass legislation. The law proposed by the deal is not designed to reduce youth smoking. Instead, it would ensure that the cigarettes most popular with our children -- Marlboro, Camel, Kool, and Newport -- will not lose sales. The original point of the states' litigation was to expose decades of tobacco industry conspiracy, cut teen smoking and recover Medicaid costs. What happened along the negotiating path? When did protecting Big Tobacco's profits become a priority?

The deal protects the industry from future litigation brought by any "settling state's subdivisions (political or otherwise, including, but not limited to, municipalities, counties, parishes, villages, unincorporated districts and hospital districts), public entities, public instrumentalities and public educational institutions." This is an outrageous abuse of power! Lawsuits brought by cities and counties could be effectively preempted by this provision. No attorney general should be permitted to preempt claims over which they do not have authority and in cases where they are not part of the litigation.

The deal also protects the assets of multi-national tobacco companies from paying the costs of the settlement. Only the tobacco companies' domestic subsidiaries would be held responsible. This provision raises serious questions about the ability of states to collect the promised compensation should domestic tobacco subsidiaries be unable to make their promised payments.

The multi-state deal's so-called marketing provisions are riddled with loopholes big enough to drive hundreds of racecars through. The deal will perpetuate stock car racing's Winston Cup and the Kool Jazz Festival * events with high youth appeal.

In another section of the new deal, tobacco companies generously agree not "to take any action the primary purpose [emphasis added] of which is to initiate, maintain or increase the incidence of youth smoking." The tobacco industry has denied for years that it does not target youth, claiming instead that its advertising and marketing are aimed at promoting brand switching among adult smokers. So this provision of the settlement is meaningless. The tobacco companies are simply offering to give away something they already say they do not do!

This deal is a giant leap back from the tremendous gains made in the Mississippi, Florida, Texas and Minnesota settlements. The American Lung Association calls on each attorney general to reject it. We will strongly support each attorney general as they pursue their individual cases in court.

The American Lung Association has been fighting lung disease for more than 90 years. With the generous support of the public and the help of our volunteers, we have seen many advances against lung disease. However, our work is not finished. As we look forward to our second century, we will continue to strive to make breathing easier for everyone. Along with our medical section, the American Thoracic Society, we provide programs of education, community service, advocacy and research. The American Lung Association's activities are supported by donations to Christmas Seals and other voluntary contributions. You may obtain additional information via our America Online site, keyword: ALA, or our web site.