e-mail: 8117 W Manchester Ave Suite 500 · Playa del Rey CA 90293
Tel. (310) 577-9828


Contact: Patrick Reynolds, President, Tobaccofree.Org
Tel: (310) 577-9828 office


BUSH'S FUNDING CUT TO
FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST BIG TOBACCO
HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM

Editorial by Patrick Reynolds

I'm outraged by Bush's cutting funds for the Justice Department's lawsuit against the tobacco industry. It could result in a $100 billion savings to Big Tobacco.

Medicare and Medicaid are paid 50-50 by the States and the Federal government. Now that the States have recovered $246 billion through their settlement, there is a clear legal precedent for the Federal government to recover its share as well.

It may even be unconstitutional for the executive branch of government to interfere so blatantly with the judicial branch. It's the court system, not Congress, which enabled those who fight tobacco to make their greatest progress.

This move is a brazen protection by the President of Big Tobacco. Bush has hired several people who have worked closely with the cigarette industry, like political strategist Roger Ailes, so this comes as no surprise.

According to Common Cause, the tobacco companies gave over $5.37 million in campaign donations in 1999 and 2000 -- with $4.7 million, or 88%, going to Republicans. Is it really just a coincidence that Bush drastically cut the funding of the Federal lawsuit against Big Tobacco? No corporation gives away millions of dollars without a good reason. DOJ lawyers say they need $57 million to continue, but Bush is offering just $1.8 million. In truth, it could spell the end of the Federal lawsuit.

The best remedy here is strong, uncompromising campaign finance reform. The McCain-Feingold bill has been passed by the Senate, but it now faces a major battle in the House.

It's critically important that voters call their House Representatives, and urge them to vote for the McCain-Feingold bill -- just as it is, without the watering down it surely faces at the hands of some members.

Looking at the public perception of the tobacco lawsuits, many people feel that smokers should be accountable for the disease and death they bring on themselves by their choice to continue to smoke. I absolutely agree that they should smokers should be accountable for whatever disease they eventually get.

But does that mean we should let the tobacco industry go unaccountable for its part in causing the problem? They targeted young people in their ad campaigns, they failed to warn of the addictiveness of their products, and for years they claimed publicly that smoking doesn't cause disease.

As to the 'choice' to smoke, for many, smoking is a nearly unbeatable addiction, and there is far less choice than the tobacco companies have suggested to their customers. Eighty percent of smokers became addicted before reaching age 19, and cigarettes are as addicting as heroin, according to Dr. Koop's report.

Looking at the bigger picture, it's significant that it's not Congress who has been bringing Big Tobacco to heel. It's the judicial branch of government, and local coalitions.

For 30 years, Congress has passed no Federal workplace smoking law, no laws making it harder for kids to buy cigarettes, no limits on tobacco advertising, no substantial Federal cigarette tax increase, and no FDA regulation. I believe the primary reason for this is our present system of campaign finance and special interest lobbying.

It's ominous that multinationals like Big Tobacco can acquire this much power over our Federal government. Until campaign finance reform is passed, the court system is our best means of ensuring that fewer of our children become addicted to smoking.


Patrick Reynolds
President, Tobaccofree.org

Contact tel: 310-577-9828

8117 W Manchester Ave Suite 500 · Playa del Rey CA 90293

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Related Boston Globe article with backup of facts

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Short bio

In 1986, Patrick Reynolds became the first tobacco industry figure to speak out against the industry, after his father, R.J. Reynolds, Jr., died in 1964 from emphysema, caused by smoking his family's brands. He founded Tobaccofree.org in 1992, and makes a living as a motivational speaker, specializing in tobacco prevention at middle and high schools.

Or see his full bio.

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