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Archive for the ‘Tobacco’ Category

The Reynolds American, Inc. 2014 Annual Shareholders Meeting: Change of CEO, change of demeanor, “Transformation” to the status quo.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

By Edward Sweda

          As I entered the Reynolds American Corporate Offices (photo) at 401 North Main Street in Winston-Salem, North Carolina just after 8 A.M. on Thursday, May 8, the company’s “Welcome Shareholders” sign was perched directly above the building’s main entrance.  Having cleared through the metal detector, I proceeded to the registration table, where I received my admission ticket to the 2014 Annual Shareholders Meeting of Reynolds American, Inc. (RAI).

           Since the doors to the meeting room would not be opened until 8:30, I had a few minutes to observe my surroundings inside RAI headquarters.

 Banners touting Camel, Pall Mall, American Spirit, Grizzly Long Cut, and ZONNIC (the company’s nicotine gum).

Another banne012r with the alliterative slogan “Transforming Tobacco,”

One more banner, entitled “Living Our Core Values,” with four adjectives: principled, creative, dynamic and passionate.”

           As I proceeded toward the men’s room, I encountered RAI’s cafeteria, which is named the “Golden Leaf Cafe” and contains black plastic chairs.  The back of each of those chairs has a cutout in the shape of a camel.  Prominently positioned in the lobby was a large portrait of Richard Joshua Reynolds (whose statue can be found a few blocks south on Main Street — see photo), the company’s founder.

I entered the meeting room just after 8:30 and sat in an aisle seat near one of two microphones.  After having been personally greeted by several RAI employees, I got a chance to read a two-sided blue handout entitled “Rules of the Annual Meeting.”   The closing part of the tenth of the twelve rules caught my attention: “Failure to observe the rules is cause for expulsion from the meeting.  Shareholders and their representatives who refuse to leave the meeting upon request could be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.”  I remembered my experience at the 2013 RAI Annual Shareholders Meeting.

          Hardly welcoming.

           The 2014 meeting started precisely at 9:00 A.M. and featured the return of Susan Cameron as CEO.  Tom Wajnert, the Non-Executive Chairman of the Board, began by citing his desire for a “productive and orderly meeting” and his opposition to disruptions under the “guise of points of information.”  He then turned to Tom Adams, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, for a report on business.  Mr. Adams noted that 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of RAI and that the company had made “much progress since 2004.”  Key phrases from his report included: “leading the transformation of the tobacco industry”; “Stronger than ever”; “shareholder return of 27%”; “record profits”; “brand milestones”; and “highest market share for Camel since 1967.”  Mr. Adams made no mention of any developments in tobacco litigation over the past decade (see, e.g., http://www.phaionline.org/2010/02/19/all-parties-seek-supreme-court-review-of-racketeering-trial-us-v-philip-morris/  and  http://www.phaionline.org/2012/03/26/supreme-court-rejects-key-tobacco-industry-appeal-leaving-massive-liability-with-no-end-in-sight/  ).  The premature deaths of millions of the company’s customers and bystanders to the use of the company’s tobacco products were once again excluded from RAI’s business presentation.

           The Question and Answer session’s allotted time was increased slightly from the 25 minutes at the 2013 meeting to 30 minutes.  As it turned out, Mr. Wajnert twice extended the period for shareholders’ questions and everyone who had lined up at the microphones had the opportunity to ask a question.  The Q&A session lasted 45 minutes, from 9:40 to 10:25.

           My question, which dealt with the ongoing Engle Progeny litigation in Florida, drew the meeting’s only mention of tobacco litigation from RAI.  I called attention to the fact that, in February 2014, the website Law360.com reported that a leading litigation finance company — Law Finance Group — “has decided to throw its weight behind the plaintiffs in what experts say is the latest sign that the scales may be tipping toward eventual settlement.”  Law Finance Group is offering appeal funding in Engle Progeny cases and advancing payment to plaintiffs of an appealed award.  In October 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider ( http://www.phaionline.org/2013/10/07/us-supreme-court-deals-devastating-blow-to-the-cigarette-industry-and-settlement-value-of-nearly-8000-pending-engle-cases-rises-dramatically/ ) the tobacco companies’ appeal of the Florida Supreme Court’s March 2013 ruling in the Douglas case ( http://www.phaionline.org/2013/03/18/big-victory-at-florida-supreme-court-is-bad-news-for-cigarette-manufacturers/ ).  This development was a significant factor in Law Finance Group’s decision to support the Engle Progeny plaintiffs.  My question to the RAI Board was: “What, if anything, has management  done to inform its shareholders about this important new development regarding the Engle Progeny litigation?”

           In response, Mr. Wajnert turned to Martin L. “Mark” Holton III, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Assistant Secretary.  Mr. Holton chose not to address whether RAI had ever informed shareholders of the Law Finance Group’s decision.  Instead, he declared that he and the company are “comfortable” with RAI’s litigation position, including at the appellate level, with regard to these cases in Florida.  [Just a month later, the U.S. Supreme Court gave RAI another major setback when it refused to consider the company’s appeal of several plaintiff verdicts in the Engle Progeny litigation in Florida.

           Dr. Sharon Brown, who had been ejected from the 2013 RAI Annual Shareholders Meeting, noted that RAI had resumed cigarette advertising in certain magazines, including Glamour, and expressed additional concern that a Spanish-language version of the company's "Right Decisions, Right Now" program could help introduce Spanish-speaking youth to RAI's tobacco products.

           Many of the questions dealt with farm labor issues, especially the working conditions of workers who toil for companies that supply tobacco to RAI.  Mr. Wajnert refused tIMG_4354 (2)o answer a direct question as to whether he believed a farm worker's minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is a fair wage.  Many supporters of the Farm Labor Organizing Council, AFL-CIO (FLOC) (see http://www.floc.com/wordpress/ ) attended the meeting while others demonstrated outside company headquarters.  (photo courtesy of Dr. Sharon Brown).

           Two shareholder resolutions were defeated.  The first, calling for more transparent reporting to shareholders of the company's lobbying expenditures, received 47.7 million "Yes" votes compared to 393.9 million "No' votes.  The second resolution, calling for an end to virtually all animal testing, received 3.3 million "Yes" votes and 433.8 million "No" votes.

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Statue of R.J. Reynolds



An hour with Altria Group, Inc.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

By Edward Sweda

Opening the company’s 2014 Annual Shareholders Meeting at precisely 9:00 A.M., Martin J. Barrington, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Altria Group, Inc., had plenty of good news to report to shareholders who had assembled at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on the morning of Wednesday, May 14.  During his report on business, Barrington said that 2013 was a “strong year” for Altria, that dividend growth was positive and that total shareholder return was 28.6%.  Marlboro’s share in 2013 was 43.7% — greater than the next ten brands combined.  Altria’s Copenhagen and Skoal brands combined for a 50.7% share of the smokeless tobacco market in the United States.

The company also pledged to continue to follow its four “core strategies”:

  1.                 Invest in Leadership (“We will invest in excellent people, leading brands and external stakeholders important to our businesses’ success.”)
  2.                 Align with Society (We will actively participate in resolving societal concerns that are relevant to our businesses.)
  3.                 Satisfy Adult Consumers (“We will convert our deep understanding of adult tobacco and wine consumers into better and more creative products that satisfy their preferences.”)
  4.                 Create Substantial Value for Shareholders (“We will execute our business plans to create sustainable growth and generate substantial returns for shareholders.”)

But there was also bad news for Altria and its shareholders.  Just fifteen days earlier, a panel of Illinois’ Fifth District Court of Appeals had unanimously reinstated a $10.1 billion bench verdict in a light cigarette class action, the Price case.    Barrington did bring up this ruling during his business presentation, but only after claiming that Altria had had “success in managing litigation” during 2013.  While acknowledging that “substantial litigation challenges” remain, Barrington expressed satisfaction over two company victories, the rejection of a light cigarette case in California, the Brown case, and a New York Court of Appeals ruling against the plaintiffs in a medical monitoring case, the Caronia case.

During the question and answer session, I cited the recent ruling in Price.  “In 2005, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the $10.1 billion bench verdict on what we now know is the false premise that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had authorized the conduct that was the basis for the company’s liability.  Subsequently, the FTC itself and the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2008 ruling in the Good case both made that clear.  While the company will appeal that April 29th ruling by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, my question is: What steps has the company taken to prepare to pay this multi-billion dollar judgment if the appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court is unsuccessful?”

In response, Barrington did not identify any specific steps that company may have taken.  He expressed confidence that the ruling would eventually be overturned.  He also told the shareholders that Altria prepares for all possible outcomes but that we are “a long way” from the point where a final judgment in the case would have to be paid.”

Two shareholder resolutions were considered at the meeting.  The first, filed by Trinity Health, noted that the World Health Organization has said that tobacco and poverty “have become linked in a vicious circle, through which tobacco exacerbates poverty and poverty is also associated with higher prevalence of tobacco use.  Several studies from different parts of the world have shown that smoking and other forms of tobacco use are much higher among the poor.”  The resolution called on Altria to initiate efforts “to prepare appropriate materials… informing poor and less formally educated tobacco users of the health consequences of smoking our tobacco products along with market-appropriate cessation materials.”  Father Michael Crosby introduced the resolution and stressed that Altria is financially benefitting on the backs of the poor at the front end of production (noting that many tobacco farm workers are undocumented and perform grueling work at the minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour) and at the back end of sales since so many people who are addicted to nicotine are poor and have less formal education.  Fr. Crosby also brought up a major concern about child labor on tobacco farms.  See http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/14/us-child-workers-danger-tobacco-farms

Management opposed the resolution, alleging that “the matters raised in this proposal currently are being addressed and that the actions requested by the proponents are neither warranted nor in the best interests of shareholders.”  The resolution was defeated, having received 3.72% of the votes.

The second shareholder resolution, which was submitted by the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order in Milwaukee, dealt with the issue of disclosure of lobbying policies and practices.  This resolution called on Altria to prepare a report, to be updated annually, that would disclose four items: “1. Company policy and procedures governing lobbying, both direct and indirect, and grassroots lobbying communications.  2. Payments by Altria used for (a) direct or indirect lobbying or (b) grassroots lobbying communications, in each case including the amount of payment and the recipient.  3. Altria’s membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation. 4. Description of the decision making process and oversight by management and the Board for making payments described in sections 2 and 3 above.”

Proponents of the resolution noted that, while Altria currently makes some disclosure, there is still incomplete disclosure about lobbying spending at the state level.  As proponents noted in the presentation in support of the resolution: “Lobbying is shareholders’ money that is being spent.  Does our company stand behind its spending?  Why should Altria intentionally keep us in the dark about how they are spending shareholder money?  What does Altria have to hide?  These are reasonable questions to ask.”    Also, Altria serves on the private enterprise board of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.  While the company has listed its involvement with ALEC, shareholders have no way of knowing how much Altria is contributing.

Management opposed this resolution as well, claiming that preparing and maintaining the report requested by proponents “would impose additional and unnecessary burdens and costs and would not be in the best interests of Altria and its shareholders.”  The resolution was defeated, having received 6.46% of the votes.

Altria’s 2014 Annual Shareholders Meeting was adjourned at 9:55 A.M.



Accelerating Tobacco Endgame Strategies in the United States: September 19-20 in Boston

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

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On September 19-20, 2014, the Public Health Advocacy Institute, in conjunction with the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium and Northeastern University School of Law will host a conference for advocates, “50 Years After the Surgeon General’s Report: Accelerating Tobacco Endgame Strategies in the United States, This meeting will provide a blueprint to show which will provide a blueprint to identify laws, regulations and policies that can:

See the agenda (pdf)

Speakers will include exceptional tobacco control researchers and policy leaders sharing both evidence-based best practices and bold new practices that comprise a true endgame for tobacco products. Confirmed speakers include:

Ken Warner          Stan Glantz

Ruth Malone        hallettjpg Cynthia Hallett

David Sweanor        AJ Berrick

Dick Daynard       Frank Chaloupka

Doug Blanke          Dorothy Hatsukami

and others (to be announced).

This meeting, the first of its kind in the United States, will highlight federal, state and local actions that will lead to an end to tobacco-caused addiction, death and disease in this country.

Re-imagining tobacco control as a means to truly end a public health problem that still kills more than 400,000 Americans each year is the next chapter in the movement that began 50 years ago when Surgeon General Luther Terry released the first Report on Smoking and Health.

The conference will be held September 19-20 (Fri-Sat) at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, MA.  Online registration will be available soon.  To be notified when registration opens and how to register, please enter your information into the form below.   You will not be placed on any other lists.



PHAI Files Amicus Brief Comparing Gambling and Tobacco Industries

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

The Public Health Advocacy Institute has filed an amicus curiae brief in an appeal pending before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  The Plaintiff/Appellants are seeking to reverse a decision of the attorney general and get a question certified for inclusion on the 2014 ballot to repeal a law legalizing casino gambling in Massachusetts.  The case is Steven P. Abdow et al., v. Attorney General, et al., No. SJC-11641.

Legalized casino gambling causes devastating effects on the public’s health, including not only the gambler but also their families, neighbors, communities and others with whom they interact. Massachusetts voters should not be denied the opportunity to be heard directly on the question of whether to invite a predatory and toxic industry to do business in the Commonwealth.

The harm caused by the tobacco industry’s products has been the archetype of a commercial threat to public health, and in considering the introduction of gambling industry casinos into Massachusetts, much can be learned from the object lesson of considering the tobacco industry as a disease vector. The predatory gambling industry shares much in common with the tobacco industry.

Some examples of the similarities are:

Both the tobacco and casino industries profit from preying upon society’s most vulnerable members, acting as disease vectors which adversely affect the physical, emotional and social health of the individual users and the communities where use of the products is prevalent.

The brief declares that the voters of the Commonwealth should be allowed to act on their own behalf in expressing an opinion of this type of predatory behavior. The power of the citizen ballot initiative is the ultimate in personal responsibility, agency and self-determination. Therefore, PHAI asks the court to compel the attorney general to certify the Plaintiffs’/Appellants’ petition and allow the repeal measure to be included on the 2014 ballot.

The full brief can be downloaded here.



PHAI’s Gottlieb Calls Out FDA and White House for Failing to Aggressively Implement the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act

Monday, April 14th, 2014

In an editorial published in the May, 2014 issue of the journal, Tobacco Control, PHAI’s Executive Director, Mark Gottlieb, calls the FDA’s approach to implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, “Overcautious,” and urges the agency and the White House to take a much more aggressive approach to saving lives.

The summary of the editorial, entitled “Overcautious FDA has Lost its Way,” states:

Five years after the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, little progress has been made in the effort to regulate the US tobacco industry and advance the public health goals of tobacco control. Legal challenges by the tobacco industry, and evidence of political interference from the White House have resulted in the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) overcautious approach toward advancing a meaningful regulatory agenda. While the White House bears final responsibility, it is incumbent upon the FDA and its Center for Tobacco Products to become more aggressive and seize the extraordinary opportunity to save lives that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act has created.

Despite the capabilities of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products and its director, Mitchell Zeller, who directed the FDA’s tobacco efforts in the 1990s under commissioner David Kessler, progress in meaningfully regulating tobacco products is moving at a glacial pace. Predictably, the tobacco industry is utilizing its full legal arsenal to challenge and delay FDA’s efforts.   It is  becoming apparent that the White House is also responsible for the FDA’s inaction through delays caused by its Office of Management and Budget.

Gottlieb believes that the agency should be: (1) eliminating menthol; (2) regulating nicotine levels to reduce dramatically abuse liability and toxic exposure; (3) implementing arresting and effective graphic warnings; (4) facilitating an increase of the national minimum tobacco sales age to 21; and (5) responsibly controlling new tobacco products’ entry into the market. This is simply not happening.

Gottlieb suggests that because litigation by the tobacco industry to challenge regulatory action is inevitable, the best strategy is for the FDA to use the best available evidence now and rollout the regulatory agenda as fast as the law will allow.  Delay only serves to benefit the industry and, consequently, increase the morbidity and mortality that the industry’s products cause in the United States.

Another suggestion by Gottlieb is for FDA to consider how Sharon Eubanks, lead attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, handled similar legal and political challenges when litigating the racketeering case, U.S. v. Philip Morris.

The editorial concludes by noting that, “[t]here exists no better public health opportunity of any kind than this one, now in the hands of the FDA. They should run with it, not from it.”

 



50 Years after the Surgeon General’s Report (#SGR50): Conference to Show How to End Tobacco-caused Addiction, Death, and Disease

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Contact: Mark Gottlieb 617-373-20026

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Boston -   The Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco and Health released today demonstrates how far we have come in addressing the loss of health and loss of life caused by the use of the tobacco industry’s products.  But after a half century, we still have tens of millions of Americans addicted to tobacco products that will cause the premature death of nearly half of them.

After 50 years, this has to stop. 50th-anniversary-surgeon-general

The time has come to aggressively deploy policies that will bring an end to the cycle of addiction, disease and death.  In the Report, such policies are referred to as “endgame strategies.”

On September 19-20, 2014, the Public Health Advocacy Institute, in conjunction with the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium and Northeastern University School of Law will host a conference for advocates, health leaders and policymakers to do just that.

“50 Years After the Surgeon General’s Report: Accelerating Tobacco Endgame Strategies in the United States” will provide a blueprint to show what laws, regulations and policies can:

Speakers will include exceptional tobacco control researchers and policy leaders sharing both evidence-based best practices and bold new practices that comprise a true endgame for tobacco products.

Northeastern University Distinguished Professor of Law, Richard Daynard, a contributing editor to the Report who also serves as president of the Public Health Advocacy Institute said of the conference: “We have the legal and moral authority to make today’s generation of teenagers the first truly tobacco-free generation.  There is no reason for them to ever be addicted to tobacco products much less struggle with cessation repeatedly, as so many do. “

This meeting, the first of its kind in the United States, will highlight federal, state and local actions that will lead to an end to tobacco-caused addiction, death and disease in this country.

Re-imagining tobacco control as a means to truly end a public health problem that still kills more than 400,000 Americans each year is the next chapter in the movement that began 50 years ago when Surgeon General Luther Terry released the first Report on Smoking and Health.

The conference will be held September 19-20 (Fri-Sat) at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, MA.  Details will be available soon at http://phaionline.org. If you would like to be notified when more information is available, please send an e-mail to moreinfo@phaionline.org.



TPLP Applauds Surgeon General Report’s Focus on Tobacco Litigation (#SGR50); Massachusetts Seen as New Frontier

Friday, January 17th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark Gottlieb (617-373-2026) or Edward L. Sweda, Jr. (617-373-8462)

Boston – The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, which was released today at the White House, highlighted the importance of litigation against tobacco companies over the past 50 years in the United States.  Thanks to a landmark 2013 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in the case of Evans v. Lorillard Tobacco Co., the Bay State is poised to become the most attractive state in which to file product liability lawsuits against tobacco companies.

“The current state of the law in Massachusetts is that any cigarette that addicts or maintains the nicotine addiction of consumers is defective.  This precedent in Evans will tremendously benefit smokers who are seeking legal redress against tobacco manufacturers in Massachusetts,” said Mark Gottlieb, Director of the Tobacco Products Liability Project (TPLP), a project of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, which is based at Northeastern University School of Law.

In the Evans case, a Suffolk County jury in 2010 awarded the son of Marie Evans, a woman who died of lung cancer in 2002 at the age of 54 after she had been given free packs of Newport cigarettes as a child at the Orchard Park Housing Project, $71 million in compensatory damages – a figure later reduced to $35 million.  In June 2013, the SJC, while overturning an $81 million punitive damages award solely due to a flaw in jury instructions, upheld the compensatory damages award and ruled that it declines “to place addictive chemicals outside the reach of product liability and give them special protection akin to immunity based solely on the strength of their addictive qualities.”  In October, Lorillard announced that it had settled the case for $79 million ($35 million plus accumulated interest) and dropped its threatened appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The SJC’s opinion in Evans now stands as a landmark precedent, binding in Massachusetts and potentially persuasive in any other jurisdiction in the country,” said Edward L. Sweda, Jr., TPLP’s Senior Attorney.  “Anyone who developed a tobacco-related disease from smoking any cigarettes (other than “ultra low tar and nicotine” cigarettes) in Massachusetts can now recover their damages from the cigarette manufacturer,” Sweda added.

Massachusetts residents and their families who have suffered from a disease or death caused by smoking should contact TPLP.



PHAI’s Gottlieb Calls for No Tobacco Sales to Anyone Under Age 21 in New England Journal of Medicine

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

-Boston

In a “Perspective” article published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Executive Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law, Mark Gottlieb, urges adoption of the Tobacco 21 policy as a means to reduce smoking rates by getting tobacco out of high schools. The piece, entitled, “Tobacco 21 — An Idea Whose Time Has Come,” is co-authored with Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Professor of Law and Public Health, Michelle M. Mello.

21+“Tobacco 21″ is shorthand for a legal policy that prohibits the sale or furnishing of tobacco products to persons under the age of 21. The policy was adopted either as a regulation or ordinance in New York City, 7 Massachusetts towns, and the Big Island of Hawaii in 2013. It was pioneered in Needham, Massachusetts in 2005 where, over five years, the smoking rate among high school students has dropped at nearly three times the rate of its neighboring communities where tobacco was available to 18-20 year-olds. Because almost all cigarette smokers start prior to age 21 and quickly become addicted, there is good reason, supported by emerging neuroscience, that deferring access to tobacco products to an age where the brain is less susceptible to the addictive qualities of nicotine will significantly reduce smoking rates.

Co-author Mark Gottlieb said, “Tobacco 21 shows great promise to reduce tobacco use and can be adopted by any state and most cities and towns.” “There is no good reason why a product as addictive and deadly as cigarettes should be made available to teenagers when we know that delaying access will reduce the chance that today’s teens will die prematurely from a smoking-caused disease,” Gottlieb concluded.

The article can be freely downloaded at: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1314626?query=featured_home

 



PHAI urges FDA to prohibit the sale and distribution of menthol cigarettes

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

On July 24, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking comments from the public and other stakeholders on the potential regulation of menthol in cigarettes.   Gottlieb and Daynard from PHAI submitted comments today on Docket No. FDA-2013-N-0521 calling on the Secretary of Health and Human Services to promulgate regulations to pursuant to her authority under sec. 906 of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to  prohibit cigarette manufacturers from selling or distributing cigarettes that are:

a) Branded as a menthol product;
b) Marketed as a successor to a previously marketed menthol product; or
c) Otherwise likely to be perceived as a menthol product or menthol product successor in the marketplace.

The FDA’s staff issued a peer-reviewed comprehensive scientific report as did the agency’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee in 2011.  We noted that, “these findings clearly establish an evidence base that justifies regulatory action by the Secretary to stop the harm to public health caused by permitting mentholated cigarettes to remain on the market.  To put it simply, the most acute harm appears to be that mentholated cigarettes facilitate smoking initiation by youth, frustrate quit attempts by addicted smokers, and include brands that have particularly targeted African Americans in a way that amplifies health disparities.”

Despite a years-long process, we are cautiously optimistic that FDA will move forward with regulations such as those we recommend in the near future.

View our comments here.

 



PHAI researchers co-author article in AJPH describing how health advocates battling the food and beverage industry can learn by looking back at the smoking and health crisis of the late 1950s and early 60s

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Richard Daynard, Lissy Friedman, and Mark Gottlieb have co-authored an article published today in the American Journal of Public Health, along with our research partners from Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG). The article is entitled: “Cigarettes Become a Dangerous Product: Tobacco in the Rearview Mirror, 1952–1965.”

BMSG’s press release appears below:

Nutrition advocates may be able to use lessons from tobacco control to help government move faster toward protecting the public from harmful food and beverage company products and marketing practices, say the authors of a new study published today by the American Journal of Public Health.

In a content analysis of public and internal documents, the authors, from Berkeley Media Studies Group and the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law, examined national newspapers, tobacco industry documents and the Congressional Record and Congressional Index between 1952 and 1965 to learn how health harms from cigarettes were framed in the early days of anti-tobacco advocacy.

The study found that news coverage of tobacco focused primarily on its health harms — not who was responsible for addressing them. Much as nutrition advocates often see headlines today about sugary drinks, junk food or other products that fuel disease, pre-1965 conversations about cigarettes were typically disconnected from the industry that produced them.

As such, the personal responsibility rhetoric the tobacco industry became known for in the 1980s and beyond — rhetoric that food and beverage companies have borrowed and are using today to forestall government regulation and shift blame for their products’ health harms onto the consumers who buy them — was all but absent from both news coverage and industry documents. Instead, tobacco companies focused on raising doubts about cigarettes’ links to lung cancer. More than three-quarters of tobacco industry documents denied that cigarettes are harmful to health, with industry spokespeople claiming that the causes of cancer are complex and more research was needed. The industry also discussed cigarettes’ alleged benefits, such as a “feeling of well-being and refreshment.”

What little discussion there was of culpability identified both individuals and industry as sharing blame for the problem and, strikingly given today’s political discourse, called upon government to act.

“The backdrop for early tobacco control was wildly different from today’s political climate,” Lori Dorfman, the study’s lead author and director of the Berkeley Media Studies Group, said. “Profound distrust of the government has made it harder for public health advocates to make the case for protections from harmful products. In the 60s, a belief in government’s duty to act to protect public health was the norm.”

According to the study, government action was contested only in internal industry documents, not public discussion. News coverage and legislative documents questioned not whether the government should act, but how.

Nevertheless, once the dangers of cigarettes were established, actions were individually oriented and related mostly to providing consumers with more education and warnings about smoking’s health harms.

“We now take for granted how effective tobacco taxes and indoor smoking bans are,” study author and Public Health Advocacy Institute Director Mark Gottlieb said. “But moving tobacco control efforts from smoking cessation to industry regulation happened over the long haul.”

The study authors suggest that advocates now pushing for healthier food environments may be able to do the same, shifting attention from unhealthy foods and beverages to the companies that manufacture and market them. However, they will have to do so within a changed, and more challenging, political context.

  ###

Article abstract link: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301475

Ciation: Dorfman L, Cheyne A, Gottlieb MA, Mejia P, Nixon L, Friedman LC, Daynard RA. Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print November 14, 2013. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301475.

About Berkeley Media Studies Group

Berkeley Media Studies Group researches the way public health issues are characterized in the media and helps community groups, journalists and advocates use the media to advance healthy public policy. BMSG is a project of the Public Health Institute.

About Public Health Advocacy Institute

The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) is a legal research center focused on public health law at Northeastern University School of Law. PHAI’s goal is to support and enhance a commitment to public health in individuals and institutes who shape public policy through law. PHAI is committed to research in public health law, public health policy development; to legal technical assistance; and to collaborative work at the intersection of law and public health. Their current areas of work include tobacco control and childhood obesity.

 Contact:

Heather Gehlert, BMSG
(510) 704-3471, gehlert@bmsg.org




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