Jun. 8 2001
Washington, DC — Public health advocates activated an extensive grassroots network this past week calling on President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft not to pardon Big Tobacco by killing the federal government's lawsuit against the tobacco industry.
Thousands of people have already written, called, e-mailed and faxed the White House. Public health advocates are encouraging concerned citizens around the country to contact the White House over the next several weeks to encourage the Administration not to be swayed by millions in tobacco industry campaign contributions. The grassroots effort is being coordinated by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, The American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.
The campaign includes newspaper advertisements and a special web site, www.DontPardonBigTobacco.org
"Big Tobacco is expecting a big pay back for the millions of dollars it invested with the President and Congress this last election," said William V. Corr, Executive Vice-President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
"The tobacco industry was unable to kill the federal lawsuit in court, so now it is trying to get off the hook for years of deadly deception and marketing to kids," added M. Cass Wheeler, Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association.
The federal tobacco lawsuit, filed in September 1999, seeks to hold the tobacco industry legally accountable for decades of illegal and harmful practices, such as deceiving the public about the health risks of smoking, the addictiveness of nicotine and marketing practices aimed at children. The suit seeks to stop these harmful practices and recover ill-gotten gains by the industry. In September 2000, a federal judge denied the tobacco industry's motion to dismiss the lawsuit and ruled that it has sufficient merit to continue under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act.
The tobacco industry gave more than $8.3 million in political contributions during the 2000 election cycle, including $90,000 to the Bush presidential campaign, and has made it clear that killing the federal tobacco lawsuit is one of its top priorities.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has said that he is still reviewing the case. However, the Department of Justice's Tobacco Litigation Team sent Ashcroft a memo explaining that a lengthy review would essentially be a decision to end the lawsuit because it would leave them without the funds needed to continue.
"This case should be decided on the merits and the law, not the politics and campaign contributions. The American people deserve their day in court," said John R. Garrison, CEO of the American Lung Association. "If the lawsuit is successful, Big Tobacco will be forced to change its behavior, reducing smoking and saving lives."
Despite their claims to the contrary, the tobacco companies continue to market their products in ways effective at reaching kids. The Federal Trade Commission recently reported that tobacco industry marketing jumped 22.3% in 1999 to a record $8.24 billion in one year. Much of that is spent on marketing effective at reaching kids.