ATTORNEYS GENERAL: Scaled-Back Settlement Evolving
The recent round of talks between state attorneys general and the tobacco industry represents a new phase "of lowered expectations." The New York Times reports the deal as it currently stands falls far short, from a public health perspective, of the ill-fated $368.5 billion settlement negotiated in June 1997. Under the new agreement, the major tobacco companies would pay about $200 billion over 25 years to the participating states. Also included is "$25 million a year for 10 years for a new national foundation to look at ways of reducing teenage smoking" and $300 million annually over five years for anti-smoking ads and smoking cessation campaigns. The Times notes that the "tenor of talks has also been markedly different this time," as many court decisions have recently been decided in favor of the industry. Furthermore, some state attorneys general involved the talks, like Dan Lungren (R) of California and Dennis Vacco (R) of New York, can benefit in the fall elections by touting a successful tobacco settlement. The current settlement proposal would award the two states "more than $10 billion each."
Many Are Disappointed
The reserved nature of the current settlement outline has public health officials and representatives from many states miffed. "Some anti-smoking advocates said" the proposal still allowed cigarette makers too many means by which to market their products to teens. Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said, "The problem is that it leaves so many avenues open it is difficult to predict that it will have a positive effect." Sources familiar with the talks noted that tobacco companies would still enjoy the right "to use a number of marketing tools, including using human figures like the Marlboro Man in advertisements and placing promotional signs outside stores, apparently even in areas close to schools." The deal is being reviewed in New York today by a group of about 10 states believed most likely to oppose it, including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin. Although most states are expected to sign on to the proposal, the "fate of the plan could rest with these 10 states, which may decide to battle the companies in court rather than settle" (Meier, 10/6).