Statement: Regarding Establishment of the President’s Commission on Improving Economic Opportunity in Communities Dependent on Tobacco Production while Protecting Public Health

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

Sep. 22 2000

Washington, DC — The Administration proposal to create this Commission is a far-sighted initiative that recognizes we can simultaneously protect the public health and help family farmers and their communities reduce their economic dependence on tobacco production. As co-chair of the Commission, I look forward to working with Co-Chair Rod Kuegel, President of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, along with other tobacco growers, public health advocates, government officials, and economic development experts, to develop solutions that address both these challenges.

For years, the cigarette companies have tried to blame the plight of the American tobacco farmer on public health initiatives and declining smoking rates. But it has become increasingly clear that the primary cause has been the decisions of the cigarette companies themselves to shift their farming and manufacturing operations overseas, thereby dramatically reducing their purchases of American-grown tobacco. While cigarette company profits have soared, incomes have shrunk for tens of thousands of family farmers in Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Virginia, Ohio, and the other tobacco-growing states.

This Commission will build on the productive partnership that has already been established between tobacco growers and public health advocates in the tobacco states. We share the goals of saving lives by reducing tobacco use and providing tobacco growers and their communities with new economic options and opportunities, backed by adequate resources. This bipartisan Commission will continue and expand these efforts and make it a national priority to develop a comprehensive, long-term solution.

[In December 1999, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS issued a report – False Friends: The U.S. Cigarette Companies’ Betrayal of American Tobacco Farmers – that details the causes of the problems that the Commission will seek to solve. The report is available on the Internet at http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/falsefriends/]

 

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