Debate and Issues Index

draft settlement

Statement of the ENACT Coalition on the Settlement between the State Attorneys General and the Tobacco Industry

The state Attorneys General have done a great service by bringing and pursuing their cases against the tobacco industry. The announcement today of a settlement between the tobacco companies and some of the states can be a significant step in the long journey to reduce the number of children who become addicted to tobacco and the number of adults who die from tobacco-caused disease.

We have not yet reviewed the agreement in detail, but there are several serious questions which we will want to discuss with the state Attorneys General, including whether this agreement can be strengthened to improve public health provisions. In addition, whatever the merits of the agreement, there are two critical points to be made.

1. This legal settlement between states and tobacco companies is in no way a substitute for a national tobacco control policy.

  • There are critical areas the settlement does not cover at all, including FDA regulation of tobacco products, restrictions on youth access to tobacco, protections against environmental (secondhand) tobacco smoke, stronger health warnings, penalties if youth smoking rates don't decline, and assistance for tobacco farmers.
  • The settlement's public health provisions leave much to be done, even in the areas it addresses, such as tobacco marketing. It does not limit print advertising, permits continued brand name sponsorship and some outdoor marketing, even near schools, and does not address the problem of tobacco marketing in stores.

Accordingly, Congressional legislation remains a critical next step. Since the Congress declined to pass tobacco control legislation last summer, more than 500,000 youth have become regular smokers.

2. It is our understanding that the settlement does not require that the states spend any of the funds they receive on tobacco control efforts. But the agreement cannot be a productive tobacco control measure unless a substantial portion of the payments to the states are committed to new or expanded efforts to reduce tobacco use.

  • The settling states should follow the lead of Massachusetts, California, Florida and others that have embarked on major tobacco reduction programs. These programs work, and they will be even more effective as more states participate.
  • If these settlement funds are diverted from tobacco control, states will face continued increases in youth tobacco use. Not only will they miss the opportunity to protect their children and help adults quit, they will find that their costs of tobacco-caused disease in the future will dwarf what they sought payment for today.

It is important to stress that there is still much more to be done. Tobacco companies continue to market aggressively to young people, continue to fight state tobacco control measures (such as Proposition 10 in California), and continue to resist responsible regulation. At the very least, the industry should cooperate with the meaning of the settlement with the Attorneys General by not attempting to divert settlement money from states' tobacco control programs.

If the tobacco companies successfully lobby to prevent spending this money on anti-tobacco programs, the price to society will be another generation condemned to an early and terrible death.

Our very preliminary analysis of the agreement suggests there are serious questions that require a fuller explanation by the state Attorneys General. These include:

  • Whether the legal claims from which the tobacco companies are being released are so broad as to inhibit important consumer protection or public health actions.
  • Whether the dollar-for-dollar offset given to the tobacco companies in the event Congress imposes a new fee or tax on tobacco companies will make it more difficult to pass important national tobacco control legislation.
  • Whether the document release provision will make it more difficult to obtain documents about which the industry has claimed a lawyer/client or other privilege.
  • Whether the exceptions to the brand name sponsorship are so broad as to undermine their effectiveness.
  • Whether the prohibition on marketing to children sets a standard that may be impossible to enforce. We urge that adequate time be given for discussion of whether the agreement can and should be improved.

The ENACT coalition will continue to work with the governors, state legislators, state Attorneys General, the Clinton Administration and the Congress for effective state and national policies, regulation and legislation. Today's announced settlement is a major step, but much more is needed to reduce tobacco use and end decades of disease and death.

For More Information, contact: Jennifer Thorp, 202-296-5469 or Emily Smith, 202-661-5710