CONGRESS: INDUSTRY EXECS TO INSIST ON IMMUNITY
The leaders of the five largest U.S. cigarette makers "areThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
prepared to broadly defend the industry's embattled settlement"
in testimony today before the House Commerce Committee, the Wall
Street Journal reports. RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp. Chair Steven
Gladstone is expected to tell the committee that he "'cannot ...
prudently agree to even more crushing economic burdens' than
those contained" in the $368.5 billion tobacco settlement,
according to his prepared testimony. Brown & Williamson Tobacco
Corp. Chair N.G. Brookes will make the same point, saying tobacco
companies "cannot agree to any legislation that does not include
the limited, common-sense civil liability protections" (Taylor,
1/29). Today's Washington Times, however, reports that "Congress
probably won't pass legislation this year" to provide immunity to
the industry. Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-OK), head of
the Senate GOP tobacco task force, "said yesterday there is not
enough support among Senate Republicans for the immunity
provisions." In the House, Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) said,
"Giving the tobacco industry immunity is very serious. We have
to be very careful about the precedent we set" (Goldreich, 1/29).
In the testimony prepared for today's hearing, Gladstone
"pleads with Congress to consider the business risks to which he
says the settlement, even as drafted, will subject tobacco
companies." "There is no question there would be severe price
increases, steep declines in volume and serious negative impact
on (R.J.) Reynolds' earnings" if the immunity provision is not
approved, according to Gladstone. The R.J. Reynolds chair also
will testify that the global settlement "is only worth it to the
industry 'if we can resolve some of the massive litigation and
bring a measure of predictability and stability to the future"
(Wall Street Journal, 1/29).
USA Today notes that "when seven other tobacco executives
appeared before the committee [in 1994], they swore nicotine is
not addictive" (Lee, 1/29). Today, the executives are expected
to "sidestep the legally and politically explosive questions of
whether nicotine is addictive and whether their companies
manipulated its content in cigarettes." But the Wall Street
Journal notes that "those and other pointed questions are certain
to be posed by [committee members], including Democratic Rep.
Henry Waxman of California, an industry foe" (1/29).
Federation of American Health Systems President Tom Scully
is quoted in today's Los Angeles Times noting the serious
obstacles the tobacco settlement faces in Congress. "I find it
hard to see them pulling together a giant tobacco deal, getting
all 50 states, the tobacco companies and all the consumer groups
to sign on to it. No matter how close you get to a deal,
somebody is going to have a reason to blow it up," he said