Bush Cabinet Nominees Seen as Tobacco-Friendly
Antitobacco activists are "alarmed" by President-elect Bush's nominations of Republicans former Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson -- men they consider "sympathetic to the tobacco industry," Scripps Howard News Service/Detroit News reports. Their possible appointments as attorney general and HHS secretary, respectively, are being viewed as an "armistice" in the federal government's "war on tobacco" and the Justice Department's effort to "recoup" from tobacco companies Medicaid funds spent to treat smoking-related illnesses. Bush himself has "expressed doubts" about the "wisdom" of pursuing such a case, the Scripps Howard/Detroit News reports. As for Ashcroft, John Banzhaf, executive director of the Action on Smoking and Health, said that the former senator "was the major opponent of tobacco reform. One would assume he's going to carry those sentiments with him to attorney general." Regarding Thompson, "critics" say his state ranked 49th in laws intended to curb youths' access to cigarettes. In addition, Thompson vetoed legislation that would have allowed municipalities to enact teen smoking laws "stricter" than already existing state laws. Ahron Leichtman, executive director of Americans for a Tobacco-free Society, said, "What this portends is an uphill battle of gargantuan proportions. There's no question that this is really devastating to the tobacco control movement. Is there anyone who can spell out the benefits from a Bush presidency as they relate to tobacco?" (Straub, Scripps Howard News Service/Detroit News, 1/5).
In other tobacco news, West Virginia jurors are set to decide whether tobacco companies must pay for "preventive medical monitoring" for "healthy people" who continue to smoke despite the advice of their physicians, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The case, which has received class-action status, represents 250,000 West Virginians who are currently healthy, but "at risk" of various cancers and heart and lung disease because they smoke. To participate in the suit, smokers must have smoked one pack per day since 1995 and not have a smoking-related illness. Lawyers for the smokers will argue that the tobacco companies should be required to pay for "free periodical medical tests," which attorneys for the tobacco companies say collectively could cost as much as $500 million. Attorney Scott Segal, who is representing the smokers, said, "West Virginians are entitled to obtain monitoring as a result of their exposure to a very toxic group of substances." But Jeff Furr, a lawyer for R.J. Reynolds, said the plaintiffs "want it both ways" -- to receive exams and continue to smoke, even though they are aware of the danger of their action. "This is an extremely unique case -- to have uninjured plaintiffs who have knowingly and voluntarily exposed themselves to the most widely known risk in our society," Furr said. Ten similar cases have been dismissed around the county. Philip Morris, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard also have been named defendants in the case (Smith, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/5).
During the transition from middle school to high school, the number of Asian-American youths who smoke increases "dramatically" according to a study from the antismoking organization, the American Legacy Foundation. The Los Angeles Times/Contra Costa Times reports that the survey of 35,000 young people found that by their senior year of high school, one-third of Asian-Americans were smoking, a rate second only to white students. The article did not give a rate for white students. During middle school, however, the smoking rate among Asian-Americans was the lowest with about 5.5% smoking. In comparison, 10.7% of whites, 11.3% of blacks and 11.2% of Latinos smoked during middle school. The report said that in middle school the "barriers to smoking begin to drop dramatically." The foundation's experts maintain that the smoking "explosion" among Asian-American high school students might be related to "parenting styles that differ from other ethnic groups." Foundation's President Cheryl Healton said, "The theory -- and it is only a theory -- is that (Asian-American youths) have more parental supervision at a younger age [than other groups]. [Experts] think that (cigarette) use burgeons as they spend more time away from the home environment" (Los Angeles Times/Contra Costa Times 1/5). The report is available at
http://www.americanlegacy.org/grants/first_look.html Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat to view the report.