Public Health Groups Launch Ad Campaign Supporting Tobacco Quota Buyout and Continued Price Supports

Apr. 22 2003

Washington, D.C. — The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids this week launched a radio advertising campaign in tobacco-growing states in support of economic assistance to tobacco farmers and communities, including a tobacco quota buyout and reforming, rather than replacing, the current tobacco price support system. Public health groups have been working with major tobacco grower organizations, including the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative and the Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization Corporation, to build support in Congress for these proposals.

The new ad points out that while public health groups and several of their key allies in Congress have supported both a quota buyout and reformed tobacco program, the tobacco companies and some politicians have told farmers they can't have both a buyout and a program. For example, according to news reports, Philip Morris recently told tobacco growers that achieving both would be "politically infeasible."

"If the public health community and its allies in Congress support the farmers, who is standing in the way?" the ad asks. "Isn't it time for Congress to help the farmers instead of the cigarette companies?"

"The public health community and major tobacco grower organizations are working together to address the economic crisis facing tobacco farmers and communities. But the cigarette companies insist on standing in the way, and too few members of Congress from tobacco-growing states have stood up for what the farmers want," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "To pass a quota buyout and an economic safety net for tobacco farmers, we need the strong support of those elected to represent growers in Congress."

"Big Tobacco is once again trying to divide and conquer," said John R. Seffrin, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society. "Protecting the public health and offering new economic development opportunities to tobacco farmers are not mutually exclusive."

The public health community has worked for several years with tobacco growers to address both the economic crisis facing tobacco farmers and communities and the public health crisis caused by tobacco use. The public health groups support the recommendations contained in the May 2001 final report unanimously adopted by the President's Commission on Improving Economic Opportunity in Communities Dependent on Tobacco Production While Protecting Public Health. The commission consisted of an equal number of tobacco growers and public health advocates, as well as economic development experts. Its co-chairs were Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Rod Kuegel, President of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, and its members included John R. Seffrin, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society, and Cass Wheeler, Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association.

Since then, public health and grower groups have been working together to implement their consensus recommendations through legislation that would:

  • Provide tobacco growers and quota holders with fair and equitable compensation for their quota funded through a user fee on the tobacco companies or other sources of new revenue.
  • Replace the current tobacco program with a new system of licensing that controls supply with production permits to be held only by active growers, maintains price, protects family farmers and gives farmers and their communities both short-term and long-term stability.
  • Provide economic development assistance to tobacco communities.
  • Provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with effective authority over manufactured tobacco products comparable to the authority it has over other consumer products, while retaining the Department of Agriculture's role over tobacco growing.

Legislation supported by the public health community includes H.R. 245 introduced by Congressman Ernie Fletcher (R-KY), which includes a quota buyout and other economic assistance to tobacco growers.

In addition to the radio ad, public health groups also have placed print advertisements in recent issues of "Flue Cured Tobacco Farmer," "Burley Tobacco Farmer," and "Farmer's Pride." Among other things, the print ads state, "Tobacco farmers need action quickly. Our organizations and our allies in Congress are ready to do whatever is necessary to pass legislation to accomplish these goals rapidly. The public health community and many from the tobacco growing community are united, but one ingredient is missing – we lack the support of too many members of Congress from the tobacco growing states." (The print ad can be viewed at http://tobaccofreekids.org/pressoffice/release630/FarmerAd.pdf.)

U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) have endorsed the goals of the public health community and sent a letter last year to the heads of the Flue-Cured Stabilization Corporation and Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association. (Please call Joel Spivak at 202-296-5469 if you would like a copy of the letter.)

The radio ad is running in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Text of Radio Ad

ANNCR: Everyone knows America's tobacco farmers are facing tough times these days. But farmers have some new friends in the fight.

Our nation's leading public health organizations are working with tobacco growers for a quota buyout -- one that's fair, paid out in under 5 years and based on quota years like '98, before the big cuts. What's more, they're fighting for a buyout that includes a safety net to protect us against huge price cuts and out-of-control competition.

But the cigarette companies and some politicians are standing in the way. They say we can't have a buyout and a program, or that we have to accept less money. But if the public health community and its allies in Congress support the farmers – who is standing in the way? Isn't it time for Congress to help the farmers instead of the cigarette companies?

Paid for by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

 

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