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
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