Debate and Issues Index

draft settlement

New Orleans Times Picayune Opposes AG Signing Deal


To the editor:

We applaud the Times-Picayune's editorial urging Louisiana not to rush into signing the secretly negotiated, lengthy, and complicated deal being pushed by the tobacco industry. Given adequate time to review the provisions of the 200-plus page deal, we believe that Attorney General Ieyoub will find that it does not meet the high standards he has set for ending the tobacco company practices that have targeted kids as future customers. Nor will it compensate this State for the expenses it has incurred due to the deceitful practices of tobacco companies, which have promoted tobacco use with the resulting serious health consequences.

Attorney General Ieyoub has been a leader in seeking to protect kids from tobacco and to reimburse Lousiana for medical costs incurred in treating smoking-related diseases. He was among the first attorneys general to file suit against the tobacco companies, and he has maintained a network of public health advocates to insure their participation in Louisiana's efforts to curb youth smoking. Thus, in addition to the deal's serious shortcomings, which are likely to undermine our long term goals of reducing teen tobacco use, we are most troubled that the tobacco industry deal does not give the Attorney General sufficient time to review the proposal and consult with the organizations and citizens with whom he has worked over the past two years.

Our initial review reveals several serious weaknesses in the proposal:

Tobacco companies are not prohibited from engaging in some of the advertising and promotion practices that are most attractive to potential youth smokers, including the using the Marlboro Man, and sponsoring sporting events such as NASCAR racing, and music festivals;

Cigarettes will remain readily available through store self-help displays and vending machines;

The tobacco industry is not required to meet any specified targets for reducing teen smoking, nor will it incur any penalties if teen smoking rates fail to decline;

The states that settle under this deal will receive less money than states that have previously settled (Minnesota, Florida, Texas, and Mississippi), nor will the States will not keep most of the money as they will be required to return well over half the amount received to the federal government; Louisiana will actually receive less money than it would have realized if it had raised the tobacco tax by 25 cents on a pack of cigarettes;

Local governments are pre-empted from bringing lawsuits to redress past industry misconduct even though the local governments are not plaintiffs in any state suits;

States and local lawsuits are pre-empted from bringing legal action for misconduct relating to environmental tobacco smoke, even though this was not a cause of action in the original action and there is evidence that the tobacco industry withheld information about the dangers of passive smoke to non smokers.

We appreciate Attorney General Ieyoub's desire to see money from the settlement is used for health care costs. There are, however, no assurances as part of the deal that any of the funds received will go for either tobacco reduction education, research, or treatment programs. The tobacco companies are free to support legislators seeking to divert the money from effective tobacco control programs.

We urge Attorney General Ieyoub to review carefully and to seek public comment and understanding regarding the wisdom of the proposed deal. The lives of the children of Louisiana and the health of its citizens deserve more than the rush to judgement being pushed by the tobacco industry.



Ben Fontaine, American Lung Association of Louisiana

Leslie E. Gerwin, J.D., M.P.H.

Michael Kiernan, MD, Fellow American Academy of Pediatrics