Tobacco Executive Responds to Surgeon General’s Proposal To Ban Tobacco
U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona's statement earlier this month that he would support banning all tobacco products did not "win him any measurable praise" from antismoking lobbyists or government officials because both groups are "'addicted' to tobacco revenue," Tommy Payne, executive vice president for external relations for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece (Payne, Los Angeles Times, 6/18). Carmona on June 3 told members of the House Energy and Commerce Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee that he supports "banning or abolishing tobacco products." In response to a question by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Carmona said that he would support a ban on tobacco products but did not state whether he would support legislation that would impose a ban (California Healthline, 6/4). According to Payne, between 1998 and 2002, local, state and federal governments collected nearly $135 billion through taxes on tobacco products, and state governments are "particularly dependent" on tobacco funding, including California, which would lose $2.3 billion each year if tobacco were banned. In addition, 20 of 44 states that faced budget deficits in 2002 increased cigarette taxes to help address the issue, and to date nine states have increased tobacco taxes this year. Payne writes that "even the antismoking lobby didn't warm up" to Carmona's proposal, because many antismoking groups receive a portion of the $2 billion states have received from tobacco taxes and the national tobacco settlement. Payne writes that Carmona deserves "credit for raising an intellectually honest question: Should cigarettes remain legal for adults in this country?" However, the reaction to his position is best characterized as, "Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it," Payne concludes (Los Angeles Times, 6/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.