Philip Morris Criticizes States for Failing to Use Tobacco Settlement Funds for Youth Anti-Smoking Efforts
Philip Morris, the nation's largest cigarette manufacturer, has released a statement criticizing state governments for failing to use funds from the 1998 tobacco settlement to reduce youth smoking, the AP/Nando Times reports. The statement was released to coincide with the next round of payments from the $206 billion settlement, scheduled for today. Carolyn Levy, Philip Morris' senior vice president for youth smoking prevention, said, "We are disappointed that, to date, more states have not taken advantage of the opportunity to use these funds to support programs that can help reduce youth smoking." The tobacco company cited a recent National Conference of State Legislators study that said that states are using only 5% of the settlement funds for anti-smoking campaigns, while most of the funds are being allocated to fill budget shortfalls. Philip Morris spokesperson Tom Ryan noted that reducing youth smoking was one of the primary goals of the settlement. He added that the company has "voluntarily" pulled advertisements out of magazines with a large youth readership and had dedicated $300 million to curb smoking among youths since 1998.
Anti-smoking advocates called Philip Morris' statement an attempt to "improve its public image without making any changes in the way it does business." Bill Corr, executive vice president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "If they put their advertising muscle and marketing prowess into getting kids not to smoke their brands, then they would have a right to criticize others for their actions." Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the
American Legacy Foundation, an anti-smoking group established with funds from the tobacco settlement, expressed "skeptic[ism]" that Philip Morris really wanted youths to stay away from cigarettes. She said, "I find it hard to believe a business will dedicate itself to going out of business" by encouraging youths to quit smoking. Healton also criticized Philip Morris' anti-smoking campaign, calling their advertisements "tepid" and pointing out that the ads air mostly during adult-oriented shows that teens are less likely to watch. "You don't see their ads in the middle of a hot video on MTV," Healton said (Zuckerbrod, AP/Nando Times, 1/9).