Statement: Regarding Senator Ted Stevens' Decision Dropping Efforts to Block DOJ Tobacco Lawsuit

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

May. 26 2000

Washington, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is encouraged by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens' statement that he will eliminate the two provisions of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill that block funding for the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the tobacco industry. One provision removes the DoJ's authority to seek funds from other federal agencies in Fiscal Year 2001 to pay for the lawsuit, while the second requires the Department to repay any FY 2000 funds it has obtained for this purpose. Senator Stevens' decision, if applied consistently to all appropriations bills, will allow this lawsuit to be decided on its merits in a court of law and not through inappropriate political interference by Congress.

However, Senator Stevens' decision does not fully solve the problem. Three House Appropriations Subcommittees – Defense, VA-HUD, and Labor-HHS – have also taken action to impede funding for the DoJ lawsuit. These efforts are purely and simply special protection for the tobacco industry. We urge the House Appropriations Committee and all members of Congress to oppose all provisions on all appropriations bills that block or impede funding for the lawsuit.

It is especially inappropriate that members of Congress would seek to provide special protection for Big Tobacco in light of two recent studies showing that the tobacco industry continues to target our kids. One study, by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, shows that the tobacco companies have increased advertising in magazines with high youth readership since signing the November 1998 settlement with the states, in clear violation of the settlement's prohibition on targeting youth. The second study, by the American Legacy Foundation, shows that this advertising is devastatingly effective. Advertising for most major cigarette brands each reached at least 70 percent of youth five or more times in 1999 – levels that assure significant impact.

These studies demonstrate that when today's tobacco executives ask the public to believe that they are no longer targeting our children, they deserve the same trust as their predecessors who swore under oath before Congress that tobacco is not addictive. Congress should be working to protect our kids, not to grant special protection to the tobacco industry. We urge all members of Congress to allow the Department of Justice to proceed with its lawsuit to recover the billions of dollars the federal government spends each year on tobacco-related health care costs.

 

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