TOBACCO ROAD: Former Surgeon General Testifies in Florida
In the Florida tobacco case, former Surgeon General Julius Richmond testified Wednesday that four of the nation's five largest tobacco firms do not concede "cigarette smoking is addictive and harmful to health," the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. Richmond's testimony challenged the opening statements of two tobacco attorneys who claimed "their CEOs will tell jurors that smoking causes disease." In addition, in a Feb. 2 letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Philip Morris officials claimed the company's Web pages on smoking and health "don't constitute a public admission" that smoking causes illness. "It clearly indicates the kind of duplicitous way the companies have approached the issue," Richmond said. Dismissing Big Tobacco's claims that it has "changed its ways," Richmond noted that cigarette manufacturers still have not released ingredient lists for individual brands, although he requested them during his tenure under President Jimmy Carter from 1977-1981. The Florida jury has already ruled against Big Tobacco twice, awarding three plaintiffs $12.7 million in compensatory damages, but tobacco companies are hoping to avoid punitive damages that could reach to more than $100 billion (Wilson, 5/24).
Massachusetts to Test Urine
In Massachusetts, cigarette makers may have to test smokers' urine to determine the amount of nicotine and carcinogens in their blood under a new proposal by the state health department, the AP/Austin American-Statesman reports. The measure would set a national precedent if passed. "This regulation is (about) a smoker's right to know," Greg Connolly, head of the department's tobacco control program, said Wednesday. Under the new plan, the manufacturers of 15 brands of cigarettes would have to observe the smoking habits of 65 smokers per brand and test their urine over a 24-hour period. The measure, which must be approved by the state's Public Health Council, could be passed as early as this fall. According to David Remes, an attorney for the tobacco industry, cigarette makers have not yet taken a position on the proposal (Iven, 5/25).
Other Tobacco-Related News
- Tennessee lawmakers are wrestling over dozens of proposals on how to spend the state's $4.8 billion of tobacco settlement money, including plans to fund health-related programs under TennCare, place the money in a trust fund or even provide subsidies for tobacco farmers (Commins, Chattanooga Times & Free Press, 5/25).
- In Indiana, although the FDA cut off state funding for compliance checks on retailers who may be selling tobacco products to children, officials plan to continue funding the program by siphoning $400,000 from a fund for gambling addition service to continue the program (Smith, AP/Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, 5/25).