What's New - November 15, 1998

Big Tobacco On The Ropes?

In a proposal for settlement which will be acted upon by states' attorney's general in the next few days, The biggest tobacco companies in the country will pay $200 billion to states in which they do business. The money is seen at least partially as recompense for the healthcare costs the states will have to pay for residents whose health is already negatively impacted because of their smoking. A thorough news release outlining the details of the settlement can be found at the website of the National Association of Attorneys General, which also lists the amounts of the per-state settlement proposals.

Not Just Money

In addition to the monetary settlement, there are several other elements to the proposal:

This May Not Be the Best Deal

Although this settlement would be the largest ever by the government, many are urging caution, suggesting that there is a down side to this agreement. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests that Missouri Attorney General should "Reject Big Tobacco's Offer", citing the possibility of significantly better financial results from waging a court battle, vagueness in the language surrounding advertising restrictions, and the short deliberation period offered by the tobacco companies. On the Left Coast, the San Francisco Examiner notes that "(the settlement) won't make more than a wisp of difference in the war on smoking.", citing many pieces of the agreement which should be able to be solved by legislation and public policy, making much of the settlement just window dressing. The American Cancer Society is essentially neutral on the agreement, noting just that "Regardless of the outcome of the agreement, this issue is by no means settled." A big thumbs-down comes from the American Lung Association. In a statement by CEO John R. Garrison, the Lung Association cast the document as less of a settlement and more like a "partnership agreement" between the tobacco industry and the judicial system.

Whatever The Result ....

It seems likely that the battle between tobacco purveyors and those concerned about nicotine addiction, health problems caused by smoking and other tobacco related issues will continue. Online, there are many resources for those who are interested. The Web of Addictions maintains a list of tobacco related websites that provide information and assistance about smoking and smoking cessation. The Tobacco to 21 site has a thoughtful piece entitled "Addiction is the Issue", which is part of a very good, very comprehensive site. The Tobacco Free Kids site has a neat clickable map of the U.S. that lets you see the toll tobacco takes on your state. There is also a State Tobacco Information Center with a great deal of information about the settlement.

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