Statement of John R. Garrison, CEO, American Lung Association on Global Tobacco Bailout
The American Lung Association believes that this settlement is premature and wrong. We cannot support this settlement. We call on President Clinton, Congress, Governors and the public to carefully and completely review all terms, legislative language, consent decrees and contracts. We are troubled by the actions of some negotiators intent on rushing a deal through what should be a cautious, deliberative process. We fear that the sense of urgency is prompted by terms that will not stand up to intense scrutiny. The American Lung Association will provide this intense scrutiny.
This settlement could grant legitimacy to an industry and its behavior we all find so reprehensible. By vindicating the industry, a deal now will tell the public that all is forgiven and tobacco use is an appropriate and safe behavior. The American Lung Association has worked too hard to educate the public about the dangers of smoking to allow our efforts to be undone by allowing tobacco to purchase an indulgence -- a get out of jail for a fee card -- especially one whose price appears to be far too low.
We know Wall Street loves this deal, look at tobacco stocks. The stock market sees a bright future for tobacco. We fear that same future for our children is very dark -- more addiction, disease and death.
The public health protections are too weak. We cannot compromise on protecting the health of our children.
The advertising, marketing, environmental tobacco smoke, youth access and other provisions appear to be inadequate compromises ready for industry exploitation. If this deal is ratified, we could be locked for decades into an agreement that either totally misses the mark or is woefully inadequate.
The FDA's authority to regulate tobacco is sacrosanct. It is unacceptable that the deal appears to limit FDA authority. No changes to the FDA's current authority or limits on future authority are acceptable.
We also adamantly opposed to any immunity or limits on the tobacco industry's future liability. Damages should not be capped. No limitations should be imposed on punitive damages. If the tobacco industry cannot be punished, what wrongdoer can?
We also are concerned about proposed limits on class action lawsuits. The current flight attendants' case on environmental tobacco smoke is an example of why this important legal avenue should not be closed.
Now is not the time to settle with the tobacco industry. Every day brings new revelations about the scope of the industry's conspiracy. For example, hundreds of thousands of documents have yet to be examined in the discovery process of the State of Minnesota's case alone. The American public deserves access to all relevant information before any settlement.
This settlement could leave Americans with the impression that the tobacco issue has been resolved. It cannot and should not be resolved as long as tens of millions of Americans are addicted and nearly half a million people die each year from smoking-related disease and, most importantly, 3,000 American children start smoking every day. And, if the tobacco industry's problems are ameliorated in the U.S., the companies then will be free to continue and expand their efforts to addict millions of children abroad. Promoting the export of tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death is truly unacceptable.
A bailout for the tobacco industry is wrong, we hope the public will join with American Lung Association in our opposition.
The American Lung Association has been fighting lung disease for 90 years. With the generous support of the public and the help of our volunteers, we have seen many advances against lung disease. However, our work is not finished. As we look forward to our second century, we will continue to strive to make breathing easier for everyone. Along with our medical section, the American Thoracic Society, we provide programs of education, community service, advocacy, and research. The American Lung Association's activities are supported by donations to Christmas Seals and other voluntary contributions.
For more information on lung health, programs, and special events, call your local American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA.
When You Can't Breathe, Nothing Else Matters
Copyright 1997 American Lung Association
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