Friday, June 19, 2009

The Rest of the Story from Dudley Hafner...

Following on yesterday's post... here's more from Dudley Hafner.

"In the early eighties the landscape changed.

The health agencies learned to work together. The staffs became more skilled and were sought after by Congressmen and their staff for advice. A few victories came our way such as higher tobacco taxes, restrictions on advertising and improvements in cigarette warning labels. But the big prize was escaping us, FDA control of tobacco. The idea was first put forward by Scott Ballin who at the time was a legislative staffer in the AHA Washington office. The idea was embraced by staff of all three organizations but got little traction on the Hill. In fact we were not getting much forward movement until two very significant events occurred. The first was the studies on second hand smoke which made clear that non smokers were victims and deserved protection. And the second was Robert Wood Johnson’s decision to invest in the anti tobacco movement. Here the American Heart Association played a significant role. Our organization at RWJ’s request pledged the first seed money that created “Tobacco Free Kids”. In turn AHA approached ALA and ACS to become active participants. With ACS and AHA pledging funds RWJ then invested several million dollars over a multi year period. Robert Wood Johnson next created the Smokeless States Program which also required the close co-operation of the major voluntary health organizations plus some additional agencies such as state and county health departments, county medical societies and Non Smokers Rights groups. I chaired the Smokeless States Group for 8 years and watched as many small and large successes began to impact public attitude. Victories in point of sale, carding, clean indoor air, tax increases were having an effect. Smoking rates which had started at a slow decline in the late 1960s were now at about 26% down from a high of over 50%. However, smoking rates now appeared to have leveled off. We seemed to be down to the hard core addicts, certainly not the smoke free society that Dr. Everett Koop had as a goal.

But it depends were you sit. The Tobacco Industry was seeing declining consumption, fewer friends willing to speak up in Congress, increasing onerous regulations at the state and community level, and increasing law suits. In December of 1996 Matt Myers of “Tobacco Free Kids” received a call. The States Attorney Generals wanted his guidance in working through a settlement with the major US tobacco companies. Matt contacted the leadership of ACS, AHA and the AMA and for the next five months we served as an advisory group to the discussions. It was obvious that the health community was badly divided on the proposed settlement. This dissension affected the outcome in Congress a few months later. I retired near the end of 1997 and don’t have the details leading to the two vote loss in the Senate in 1998 which would have given FDA control of tobacco. I know that AHA leadership nearly pulled out a miracle. AHA, along with ACS and AMA almost healed a fractured health community, brought the mostly hostile Tobacco Industry to an embarrassing stand still and came close to winning the support in a Congress that had been happy to leave things just the way they had been for the last 200 years. Thanks to determined leadership on the part of the AHA and others- what started as Heart staffers’ concept in the late 1980s finally became a reality in 2009. Congratulations to all who worked so hard the last 11 years to get what we missed in 1998. Thank you for a healthier America. "

Stay tuned for more from former AHA CEOs Dudley Hafner and Cass Wheeler over the next few days...

While we look ahead to the President's bill signing, 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.

1 comment:

Suni. said...

Now we need to convince our insurance carriers to provide coverage for quitting. Cover the cost of perscriptions, patches,rehabilitation (like for addicts, 'cause that's what we are).