Debate and Issues Archive

draft settlement

Philip Morris Lobbying to Divert Settlement Funds

  COMMENTARY: Bill Godshall
  Dec 9, 1999

While responsible public health and civil justice advocates have been urging States to spend an adequate amount (i.e. 25% -30%) of settlement funds for comprehensive tobacco control programs to reduce overall tobacco use (because these programs would achieve the stated goals of the AG's lawsuits), lobbyists for Philip Morris and other tobacco pushers have been lobbying States to divert tobacco control funds to ineffective programs that are designed to appear intended to reduce youth smoking.

The following news article from Oklahoma cites a PM spokesperson as admitting that their lobbyists have been advocating these "youth only" programs in all 50 States.

Unless health advocates expose and aggressively oppose these efforts by Philip Morris and other tobacco pushers, future smoking rates will not decrease significantly and States will continue to spend increasing amounts of money treating tobacco diseases for the following reasons.

  • Youth comprise only about 5% of all cigarette addicts,
  • About 99% of state and local government healthcare expenditures for smoking are due to adult smoking.
  • More than half of all adults and youth are still involuntarily poisoned by secondhand tobacco smoke.
  • Other than a few exceptions over the past 40 years, the programs most effective in reducing youth smoking have been programs intended to reduce adult smoking and to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.
  • Most government funded programs purported to discourage youth from smoking have been ineffective or counterproductive (due to tobacco industry meddling).
  • According to many youth surveys, about 80% of 7th grade smokers, 75% of 9th grade smokers, and 65% of 12th grade smokers live in households in which an older person smokes (i.e. parent(s) and/or older sibling).
  • Adolescents naturally desire to emulate adult behavior, or that which they perceive as adult behavior (e.g. smoking).
  • Programs that tell youth not to smoke until they're adults actually encourage naturally rebellious teens to smoke.
  • Just as States don't discriminate against other disease sufferers based upon age, youth-only smoking programs discriminate against adults suffering from nicotine addiction.

While public health advocates have responsibly advocated government policies and programs to reduce illegal tobacco industry marketing to youth, tobacco lobbyists have been aggressively lobbying (and giving huge campaign contributions to) elected officials to establish counterproductive government policies and programs that subtly encourage youth smoking.

And while health advocates have appropriately urged States to fund specific programs that can effectively reduce youth demand for and access to tobacco, these programs should comprise just a small portion (e.g. 15% - 25%) of the overall budget of a State's comprehensive tobacco control program, similar to recommendations by the CDC.

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Firm Asks State to Prevent Youth Smoking

The Oklahoman
Date: Dec 8, 1999
By Paul English / Capitol Bureau

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is advocating that Oklahoma spend one-fourth of the tobacco settlement money it receives next year for youth smoking prevention programs, a spokesman said Tuesday.

That would involve $16 million of the $66 million the state will receive next year as it's installment of the tobacco settlement.

Brendan McCormick, manager of media relations for the company, said Philip Morris representatives have been giving a similar message to officials in all 50 states.

The Oklahoman contacted McCormick after learning that the company's suggestion will be included in a bill to be handled by Sen. Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, and Rep. Larry Adair, D-Stilwell.

Oklahoma is expected to receive $2.3 billion from the national tobacco settlement, with annual payments spread over 25 years. The first payment of about $24 million is due to arrive later this month, and the next check will be for about $66 million and arrive in April.

Dividing up the money will be a major focus of the Legislature when it convenes Feb. 7. The first $24 million will go into the state general fund because efforts to get it put it in a special account failed.

McCormick said the settlement agreement permits the tobacco companies to lobby for youth smoking prevention. He said Philip Morris has not taken a position on any other issues involving the money.

"When the settlement agreement was signed in November 1998, we realized that advocating that the states spend a significant portion of those funds on youth smoking prevention efforts was consistent with what we were trying to accomplish," McCormick said.

"We want to try to make an impact on reducing the number of kids who smoke and helping to prevent kids from starting in the first place."

The company studied what experts had to say about youth smoking prevention and tried to follow their recommendations, he said.

Those include a comprehensive program focusing on effective television advertising, support of successful school-based programs, some community-based programs and denying young people access to tobacco, McCormick said.

He cited a program called "life skills training" that he said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified as an effective program in reducing smoking.

McCormick said the company is not recommending a "Philip Morris program" but opinions shared by a lot of people on both sides of the debate. He said the company has no position on how long a significant portion of the money should go to youth smoking programs.

"That's really up to them, and I think each state is approaching it in a different way," he said.

Asked if campaign contributions by the Philip Morris Political Action Committee might be used in the effort to get legislation passed, McCormick said, "We lobby, and that involves communicating our position.

"We also support legislators who may support our position, but I think you're trying to make a link that's not there."

McCormick said Philip Morris has not issued news releases about its activities in Oklahoma or other states.