Debate and Issues Index

draft settlement

American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate Condemns Attorneys General Tobacco Settlement


  • Marc Burgat -- 916/446-6505
  • Kirk Kleinschmidt -- 415/433-2273

Wednesday, November 18, 1998

"The American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate condemns the Attorneys General tobacco settlement as a sellout to the tobacco industry that neither recoups healthcare costs in California nor provides adequate protection for the public health," said Roman Bowser, Executive Vice President, American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate. "The process for determining this deal, which was negotiated in secret by attorneys general hand-picked by the tobacco industry, is an affront to democratic ideals of participation."

"We urge Attorney General Dan Lungren and Governor Pete Wilson to reject the deal and proceed with the state's lawsuit. Californians deserve better."

While the intended purpose of a tobacco settlement is to provide reimbursement for health care costs to MediCal, the agreement announced on Monday does not achieve this stated goal. 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.

Since the tobacco industry has a history of making deals speedily and without close scrutiny of the fine print, it is imperative that decisions with long-term consequences not be rushed. "An agreement of this magnitude should not be made while under a 5-day limit for input from the people and the public health community," Bowser added. "We understand why the tobacco industry would want to rush this settlement through, but we question why the state of California is rushing rush into a settlement. We need 30 days at an absolute minimum to review the agreement."

"Nationally, the American Heart Association recognizes that this is a state issue. This deal is bad for California," said Bowser.

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, the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. and California.