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