JULY 28, 1997
American Lung Association director addresses tobacco issue
The Washington State Investment Board's decision to keep tobacco stocks in its investment portfolio is yet another indication that the settlement crafted by state attorneys general and the major U.S. tobacco companies is not the "bitter pill" for the industry that negotiators have suggested.
We had Big Tobacco on the ropes, but the settlement, if approved as is by Congress, promises the industry a secure and profitable future. The state Investment Board considered divestiture of this stock because tobacco looked like a risky investment -- the industry was in trouble on a number of fronts. The proposed settlement turned that around by giving the tobacco companies the certainty they need to survivve and thrive.
If the Board believes the stated goals of the settlement, tobacco would be a bad investment. One of the goals is to reduce underage smoking by more than 60%. The only way this industry can continue to remain profitable -- thereby returning money on the state's investment -- is to addict new smokers. And virtually all new smokers are adolescents. Whether those kids are here or abroad, if the industry succeeds, it does so by addicting millions of young people to tobacco.
The American Lung Association of Washington supports the alternative to the settlement proposed by former FDA chief Dr. David Kessler and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop. The Koop-Kessler plan offers a comprehensive, national tobacco policy that is based purely on protecting public health. The tobacco industry's demands and guarnteed survival are not taken into consideration.
Astrid Berg (Executive Director, American Lung Association of Washington)