Master Settlement Agreement, or a Masterful Status-quo Agreement?

November 23, 2008 marks ten years since 46 state Attorneys General and the major American tobacco companies signed the big tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). Besides being the largest legal settlement in history and resolving an unprecedented onslaught of litigation against the industry, the MSA required tobacco companies to pay approximately $200 billion to the states over 25 years (subject to tweaks for inflation and market share).

Trash receptacle with ashtray topThe devil, however, was in the details. Heralded at the time as a defeat for the tobacco industry and a victory for public health, the MSA has actually done little to change the status quo. It ended some forms of tobacco advertising, for example, but the restrictions adopted were in reality less important to the industry than to public health authorities. The industry abandoned billboards and transit ads, ads in magazines with a high youth readership, and ads within a certain distance of schools. However, it continued marketing through high levels of advertising, bar nights, event sponsorships, direct mail, and retail placements.

The Media Buries the Message: Tobacco Prevention vs. High-Cost Drugs

StatinsCholesterol-reducing drugs called statins have been in the news lately following the release of a major medical study that found that statins can prevent heart disease and stroke in people with no previous history of heart disease.

Statins are among the biggest-selling family of drugs of all time. Many articles about the study mentioned above, including one on the credible web site WebMD, also mention the specific drug used in the study: Crestor.

The study has generated hundreds of articles, most of which repeat the same basic framing of the issue: if heart disease is the problem, a drug is the answer.

Health Warning Labels Make People Want to Smoke

brainstormA three-year, $7 million neuromarketing study done in Oxford, England has found that cigarette health warning labels actually make smokers want to smoke more, not less. Neuromarketing research studies how the brain reacts to various types of marketing stimuli.


Documents Show Tobacco Industry Conspired Against Airline Smoking Ban

SmokingAn analysis of tobacco industry documents published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) tells how the German cigarette industry worked to stop Lufthansa, the flagship airline of Germany, from banning


Supreme Court to Hear Case About Low Tar/Low Nicotine Fraud

1974 ad for "True" brand low-tar cigarettesThe U.S. Supreme Court opened its 2008-2009 session today by hearing a case about whether cigarette makers have defrauded smokers with implied claims about the relative safety of "light" and "low tar" cigarettes. At issue is the question of preemption, a legal doctrine that holds that federal laws can take precedence over some state laws. The tobacco companies are arguing that they should not be held responsible for labeling and advertising that was approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC, which has long required that cigarette packs be labeled as to how much "tar" and nicotine they deliver, argues that the agency itself was fooled because tobacco companies hid internal research data that showed smokers did not benefit from switching to light or low tar cigarettes. In August 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler, in the landmark U.S. Department of Justice case against the industry, ruled that cigarette makers purposely misled smokers into believing that light cigarettes were more safe than regular cigarettes, and now more than 30 class action lawsuits on the issue of the tobacco industry's "light" and "low tar" cigarette fraud are currently pending across the U.S. The Supreme Court's ruling in this case could either affirm or invalidate all of them.


The Beginning of the End of Cigarettes for Sale in Pharmacies?

Pharmacy Brand SmokesOn October 1, 2008, the city of San Francisco put a law into effect that prohibits the sale of cigarettes in pharmacies. Walgreens drug store chain and Altria/Philip Morris have filed lawsuits against the city over the measure. In a September 30, 2008 statement about the new law, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom related the city's simple rationale: "Pharmacies should be places where people go to get better, not where people go to get cancer."

German Medical Society Proposes Classifying Nicotine Addiction as an Illness

Cigarettes tied together with stringGermany's Federal Medical Society is proposing to classify nicotine addiction as an illness, saying doctors should evaluate and treat heavily addicted smokers the same way they do patients suffering from physical illness.



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