"One of the most significant things to happen to the tobacco control movement was in the mid 90s when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation decided to enter the fray and was willing to make a multi million dollar financial commitment annually over many years. This funding resulted in the formation of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and a broader coalition. It was also in the 90s that Mississippi filed suit against the industry to recover costs they had incurred in Medicaid payments as a result of tobacco use. Other states began to follow suit resulting in the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the tobacco industry and the largest financial transaction is the history of the world—236 billion dollars. It was in the spring of 1998 that parts of the MSA , including FDA regulation, were discussed on the floor of the US Senate for 4-5 weeks. This was the longest debate in the Senate since civil rights legislation in the 60s. FDA regulation lost by 2 votes in the Senate.
The next phase was the FDA looking at the statutes and determining that they actually had authority to regulate anything that altered the state of the body and that nicotine did exactly that. Of course, the industry filed suit and it ultimately went to the Supreme Court and the industry won by a 5-4 vote with the court stating that Congress needed to grant the FDA authority. So, since we were thwarted at the federal level we took the fight locally, advocating for clean indoor air laws at the local and state levels and fighting for increased excise taxes. Many of you have been a part of these victories and you changed the landscape and created a tipping point. As these laws became more prevalent, it became easier to make our case in Washington. Nothing happens at the federal level without a strong grassroots movement and that’s what you provided. It wouldn’t have happened had you not changed the environment locally and then made your voice heard in DC. What you do locally makes a huge difference.
The single greatest cause of preventable death in the U.S. is tobacco use—440,000 deaths a year. Now for the first time in the history of this country we have a level playing field and no longer will we allow the industry to prey on our kids and addict them. Remember, 88% of current smokers became addicted as underage youth and the industry’s own documents indicate that they implemented strategies to market to kids as young as 11. That will now come to an end and each of you has been a part of making the world a better place. My thanks to all of you."
Stay tuned for more from former AHA CEOs Cass Wheeler and Dudley Hafner over the next few days...
While we look ahead to the President's bill signing on Monday, take a moment to thank Members of Congress who voted to pass this life-saving legislation. Visit http://www.heartprescription.org/ to send your email.