Transcript - Tobacco War Is Heating Up - Chicago Tonight - April 22, 1998

Tobacco Litigation
Chicago Tonight
Chicago, IL
April 22, 1998

03:13 - 28:41

Elizabeth Bracket: Do ever you feel like you're hurting your health, by smoking a cigar

Woman: Never. I feel like I'm hurting my health when I go and I eat a bunch of greasy french fries.

John Calloway: Good evening, I'm John Callaway and welcome to Chicago Tonight. The cold war may be over but the tobacco war is heating up. Three different stories and a full page ad in today's New York Times reveals some of the fronts upon which the war is being fought. On page one, a story on the recent increase in smoking by black teenagers suggests that may be propelled by the belief that smoking prolongs the heavy rush of marijuana. Another story reported on Republican efforts to link legislation aimed at reducing teen smoking with an anti-drug bill. An then there was a full page ad from Big Tobacco Companies warning that a ½ trillion dollar tax increase on cigarettes would fall hardest on people who make $30,000 a year and less. And then way back in the Business Section, was a story reporting that Philip Morris had a 6% increase in earnings in the first quarter as it sold, for the first time, more than half the cigarettes in the United States. Well on this program this evening we'll examine a wide variety of tobacco related issues, including the proposed legislation aimed at curbing teen smoking, but first this report from Chicago Tonight correspondent, Elizabeth Brackett, about the health consequences of the latest big tobacco fad.

Elizabeth Brackett: Remember when cigars were considered dirty and smelly? When they were smoked only by male politicians making deals in smoke-filled rooms. Not anymore. Cigars are now the hottest, hippest thing going. The stars are smoking cigars, in the movies and on TV. Athletes celebrate victories with cigars and so do presidents. Celebrities grace the covers of glossy cigar magazines. Jonathan Scott publishes one of those magazines. He says cigars have come to symbolize...

Jonathan Scott: The good life. It's the fine wines, the fine liquors, the fine hotels, the fine cigars and the fine company and the fine conversations.

E. Brackett: And not all of those cigars are being sold to men. Tobacco store owner and entrepreneur, Dianne Silvius Gits.

D. Gits: The big change are the women smoking cigars and it's like they tasted the men's cigars and they like them and they like . . . you gotta smoke a big cigar and women look kinda good with a big cigar. Don't you think.

E. Brackett: No argument from commodities broker Wayne Grover.

Wayne Grover: I think that a woman smoking a cigar is one of the sexiest things that I have ever seen. Hands down

E. Brackett: Do ever you feel like you're hurting your health, by smoking a cigar

D. Gits: Never. I feel like I'm hurting my health when I go and I eat a bunch of greasy french fries.

E. Brackett: But in the first long-term study of cigar smokers v. non-smokers, researches at Kaiser Permanente in California found that cigar smokers nearly doubled their risk of dying from all forms of cancer.

The New National Cancer Institute report has upped the ante on the dangers of cigar smoking even more. The American Lung Association's John Kirkwood, thinks the NCI report will bolster his organization's conviction that even occasional cigar smoking is dangerous.

John Kirkwod: It could focus on the health issue regarding cigar smoking and in fact raise peoples awareness and conscienceness and perhaps give them second thoughts about taking up a cigar.

E. Brackett: Surgeon Sharon Collins is well aware of the relationship between smoking cigars and cancer. She specializes in head and neck cancer surgery at the Loyola University Medical Center outside of Chicago. Because they are rare, head and neck cancers are often not recognized in the early stages and the survival rate is less than 50%. The surgery is often radical, the removal of a tongue or a jaw.

Sharon Collins: You are going to look basically normal on the outside, you should be able to speak and swallow essentially normally. [Speaking to patient]

E. Brackett: Collins says 90% of her patients have used tobacco products. She is clear about the risk.

S. Collins: Cigar smoking is associated with four to ten times higher risk of getting cancer of the mouth than in non-smokers.

E. Brackett: Her patient had half of his tongue removed and would not be able talk for months. But he did have a message for cigar smokers.

Patient (holding notepad that reads): When you see me now I hop you will think twice.

W. Grover: I grew up as a runner so I was always very healthy and just through the work that I'm in and the friends that I associate with, I kind of took up the cigar smoking. I just really enjoy the taste with a little heavier beer, it's just great. It's very relaxing.

E. Brackett: Many smokers say they feel safe smoking cigars because they usually don't inhale.

Richards D'Onofrio: First of all, you shouldn't inhale a cigar because the flavor is in your mouth. It's different than a cigarette. I smoked cigarettes. I quit cigarettes 25 years ago. I exercise and watch what I eat. You know, you do have to enjoy life. We're only here for one shot.

E. Brackett: Most of the cigar smokers we talked to said they only smoke about one cigar a week. But that one cigar contains 40 times as much nicotine as a cigarette. That means that smoking that one cigar is about the same as smoking a pack of cigarettes.

Industry figures show that close to five billion cigars were sold last year. A drop in the bucket compared to the sale of 470 billion cigarettes. But enough to attract the attention of the Federal Trade Commission. Robert Pitofsky chairs the commission.

Robert Pitofsky: There are a fair number of reports that cigar smoking has spiked up in the last 4 or 5 years and perhaps more important to us, there are indications that cigar smoking by young people, 17 and under, have spiked up and therefore, the same concerns that we and Congress and the country has about tobacco use by young people concerns us now about cigars.

E. Brackett: Though some cigars do contain labels now, Pitofsky says they're nearly impossible to read.

R. Pitofsky: Warning people clearly of the health risks, telling them in no uncertain terms that cigar smoke produces serious health risks, I think that's an obligation of government.

E. Brackett: If Congress agrees to warning labels, would that have an impact on those who are profiting from the newfound popularity of cigars.

Smoker: They are going to try to wreck our good time, they certainly are going to try and do that. Are they going to do it. No, they are not going to succeed. I think we've had it up to our eyeballs already with people telling us what we can and what we can't do.

E. Brackett: Those in favor of warning labels, hope the New National Cancer Institute report will bolster their efforts. For Chicago Tonight, I'm Elizabeth Brackett.

J. Callaway: And now joining us to discuss cigars, cigarettes, legislation and other matters relating to tobacco are John R. Garrison, who is managing director and CEO of the American Lung Association. Kenneth Moll, who is founding attorney of Kenneth Moll & Associates. Mr. Moll's firm filed a state-wide lawsuit on behalf of all smokers and second-hand smokers in Illinois who are alleging injury. Kathy Posner who is president and chief executive officer of Comm2 incorporated, that's a public relations advertising agency and she's a member of the Illinois Smokers Rights and Mark Raddish, professor of law and public Policy at Northwestern University as an expert witness before house and summit committees. He has testified on issues such as the constitutionality of bans on cigarette advertising. And welcome all to Chicago Tonight. And also joining us by telephone is Steve DuChesne, a tobacco industry spokesman who's public relations firm BS&J Worldwide, represents the tobacco industry and Mr. DuChesne, thanks for being with us tonight.

Steve DuChesne: My pleasure.

J. Callaway: Before we get to the legislation, could you just comment on whether the cigar smoking fad is, does the tobacco industry now acknowledge that that's a major health issue.

Steve DuChesne: John, you know, as one, I'll admit, as one who enjoys a good cigar on occasion, what is important to remember, we as legal adults in this country, have that right to enjoy that good cigar from time to time. Likewise, continue to enjoy the right to use other tobacco products as well such as cigarettes and that's the main focus of the debate here and what's happening in Washington of late, is typical old style Washington where

J. Callaway: Wait, wait, wait just a second, we're going to get to that because your ads today got to that. My question wasn't, if you recall, I did not ask you "Mr. DuChesne, do you have right to smoke a cigar' I know you have a right to smoke a cigar. My question was does your industry, the industry that you represent in public relations of the cigarette, of the tobacco industry, now acknowledge that cigar smoking is a major health problem.

S. DuChesne: The companies that I represent, John, are the largest cigarette manufacturers in this country, and yes, it is clear that these companies have acknowledged that there is some risk associated with their product. There are warning labels on the products that speak to that.

J. Callaway: Mr. Garrison, is there much of an issue here with cigars?

J. Garrison: Yes, there is an issue with cigars because cigars do cause cancer and can cause cancer and it's a major problem, it's a fad, it's something that the American Lung Association is going to work very hard to try to educate the public because if this continues, we're going to see more cancer of the mouth, more cancer of the larynx. That was an accurate report that we had there. It's a major problem.

J. Callaway: I think it was an eye opener for some people when Elizabeth said in her stand up that a cigar has 40 times the nicotine of a cigarette.

J. Garrison: Enormous nicotine, all kinds of carcinogens and the fact one cigarette is equivalent of a pack of cigarettes I think is also something we need to be aware of.

J. Callaway: Ms. Posner, you are a smoker, do you enjoy an occasional cigar?

K. Posner: I've tried cigars, I don't really enjoy them. I first off though, want to say, I do not represent any tobacco interest at all. I work for a PR firm but we have no tobacco related clients. I'm just an advocate of smokers' rights and every, it seems to me that everything that is tasty is bad for you. Whether it's cigarettes whether it's having, you know, too much fried food, whether it's driving fast cars, but I don't think that the government should use the tax code, you know, to pass social legislation.

J. Callaway: Alright. Mr. DuChesne I want to go back to you now and let you speak, if you would, to what the people all over America, today all over Chicago are picking up newspapers, and reading these full page ads you folks are fighting back, I take it.

S. DuChesne: That's correct, John. The atmosphere here in Washington, the political atmosphere, has become so poisoned by politicians who are now obsessed with punishing the industry and increasing taxes on smokers across this country. The current proposals now before Congress would impose a ½ trillion dollar tax increase on smokers in this country. By and large, people who are least able to afford that, the majority of these taxes would be paid by those earning less than $30,000 a year. What is happening here is typical tax and spend Washington. Washington is trying to create another big government program where it can control the lives of 45 - 50 million legal users of these products.

J. Callaway: And you also were saying in these ads that 17 new regulatory agencies would come into power if this legislation went through.

S. DuChesne: That's correct. 17 new boards, commissions, advisory panels, and tax forces. All ...

J. Callaway: So you know, those of you

S. DuChesne: . . . .legal conduct of adults in this country.

J. Callaway: So those of you that, representing the tobacco industry now want to focus on the governmental aspect of this as opposed to the let's reduce teen smoking aspect. Is that true.

S. DuChesne: Last year, these tobacco companies entered negotiations to address that very issue, to reduce youth smoking in this country. A noble purpose. However, politicians in Washington have lost that focus and instead now have decided to pursue a tax and spend agenda. They want to hike taxes on smokers to create more government programs and more bureaucracy that will only lead to further government intrusion in legal, in adult lives in this country. And we think that those messages will reach voters, reach citizens across this country and lead them to tell Congress that they don't like the track that Congress has taken.

J. Callaway: Mr. Garrison, there are those who were saying that the very points he is making will endanger meaningful tobacco legislation, that it's going too far in the direction of big government as opposed to addressing the issues of teen smoking reduction.

J. Garrison: I would like to make two points, if I could. Number 1, I think all of this is rhetoric of the tobacco industry. I think it's a ploy. I don't think the tobacco industry is all that concerned about the McCain Bill and they're kind of trying to establish, if you will, a ceiling on where the tobacco control legislation will go. Secondly, this legislation is not about big government, it's not about taxes, what it's about is public health and trying to keep kids from starting to smoke. And that's where we're come from. The McCain Bill, would increase, by a $1.10, it's a fee over five years, the cost of the price of a pack of cigarettes. That is, 40% of that would be paid by taxes because it's the cost of doing business for the tobacco industry. And that is not going to deter kids from smoking. It's not a big enough of an increase. So that I think . . .

J. Callaway: So you have your own objections to this legislation.

J. Garrison: Absolutely.

J. Callaway: Much less the industry.

J. Garrison: This is a flawed bill from the standpoint of the American Lung Association.

K. Posner: I feel it's a matter of personal responsibility for parents on trying to prevent their children from smoking. I'm not saying that smoking is healthy, but a parent should be the one teaching their child, not the government.

J. Callaway: Mr. Raddish, talking about the government, there's another aspect of this. You're not here tonight as a big expert on smoking or the health issues from a scientific standpoint but there's a 1st Amendment issue. And you've testified. What are the issues here?

Mark Raddish: Well, the issues are, this proposed settlement involves a concession by the industry that it will, basically stop advertising. And the questions the committees I testified in front of were interested in, was, is there a right on the part of the industry to advertise in the first place, so are they in fact conceding anything. Is this something that Congress could impose without the industry's consent. And my view is that under current Supreme Court standards and proper understandings of First Amendment precepts, it would be clearly unconstitutional to severely restrict tobacco advertising.

J. Callaway: Even if it could be established that advertising induces people into a life-long habit of smoking and that it can kill you.

M. Raddish: We're talking about truthful advertising for a lawful product and the questions is are we going to trust the public to make it's own choices on the basis of free and open debate or are we going to allow the government to manipulate that debate by censoring one side.

J. Callaway: But there are all kinds of restrictions on speech, aren't there, in the real world. In other words, you can't yell fire in a crowded theater, you can't make false advertising claims, you can't do certain pornographic things with respect to children's audiences. Isn't there enough of a public health issue here for there to be a different interpretation than this kind of pure free speech?

M. Raddish: There are a lot of activities that give benefits to people and create risks. Skydiving, mountain climbing, driving motorcycles. I'm particularly risk adverse. I don't do any of those things. People decide for themselves, are they willing to take that risk on the basis of their own assessment of the situation. Tobacco, is pretty much the same thing. I'm not saying Congress couldn't legally prohibit the sale of tobacco. I . . .

J. Callaway: Oh, you're, that's a different issue, right.

M. Raddish: That's a different issue . . .

J. Callaway: Once they do that, then it changes the free speech issue.

M. Raddish: Then it becomes advocacy of unlawful conduct, but until and unless they do that, we're talking about a lawful activity and the question is, does the government trust the public to make it's own choices.

J. Callaway: Mr. Moll, tell us what you're doing in Illinois, what you're approach is aside from federal legislation debate.

Kenneth B. Moll: We filed the nation, or the state-wide class action lawsuit representing all smokers and those persons exposed to second-and smoke here in Illinois. The proposed global settlement last June by the tobacco industry was exactly what was mentioned before, the tobacco industry is trying to grant immunity from civil liability or for their past wrongful conduct.

J. Callaway: But they backed out of that now, right?

K. Moll: Well now the bill, it's unclear as to whether or not the bill would ban punitive damages at this point.

J. Callaway: What, what are you thinking.

J. Garrison: I think that the McCain Bill gives all kinds of legal protections to the industry starting with the cap. But it also gives immunity to their lawyers, it gives the parent company immunity. This is a terrible bill.

J. Callaway: Please continue.

K. Moll: Yes, the bill does not go far enough is what we're saying. In the words of C. Evert Koop, if the tobacco company would be compared to an auto manufacturer who produces a defective car and then the manufacturer going to the government saying grant me immunity, I'm sorry, but can I still keep manufacturing this defective car.

J. Callaway: Ok, cut to the chase, you'd you be happy with legislation which simply outlawed tobacco? Is that the conversation you would rather be having tonight?

J. Garrison: No, the conversation is we want to prevent kids from starting to smoke and that's where we're coming from and that's the dynamic that was missing in one of the analysis here. Kids get hooked because they are encouraged by advertising, the marketing to kids is illegal. There's no way you can truthfully market cigarettes to kids and by the documentation from the industry we know that that has been going on for maybe up to forty years.

J. Callaway: Mr. DuChesne, do you agree with that, that the industry has been caught now and that the industry has to acknowledge that we were lied to?

S. DuChesne: John, I've got to go back to a point that Mr. Garrison raised a moment ago. It's a very important point and that is, his point that the McCain Bill or folks who support the McCain Bill claim that prices on tobacco products will increase by $1.10 per pack. In reality, the price increase will leave prices up to $5.00 a pack which would only result in a massive black market of tobacco products in this country. A black market that would have unlimited and unregulated access to kids.

J. Callaway: Mr. DuChesne would you agree that the industry lied to the American people continuously over a 40 year period about the attempts to get kids addicted to cigarettes.

S. DuChesne: John, I think it's clear that from the recent testimony that the CEO's from these tobacco companies have made before Congress, that they have acknowledged that some behavior in the past was not appropriate. But the new leaders at the top of these tobacco companies have committed to changing the way they do business. And they made that commitment last year under the June 20th proposal which has been mentioned here and a proposal which by the way would not have granted the industry immunity. In fact, it would have made it easier for these people to sue these tobacco companies. What that agreement would have done, it would have served as the most comprehensive sustained assault on youth smoking this country has ever seen. That proposal included every major proposal ever put forward by the public health community over the last decade to address youth smoking. The June proposal, and it would have worked however, politicians have thrown it on the scrap heap in there desire . . .

J. Callaway: I want Mark Raddish to get back in.

M. Raddish: Yeah, I'd like to speak about the issue about marketing to kids. It's absolutely correct that it is illegal to sell to kids and illegal to market to kids. It's not quite that simple. We're not talking about ads taken out in weekly reader. A character like Joe Camel has much appeal to people from 18 to 24 as it might from 15 to 18 and the Supreme Court has a long line of decisions which say we cannot reduce the adult population to the level of children by restricting speech seen and aimed primarily by an ad adult because it might also be seen by children and that's what this legislation does.

J. Callaway: You would work, for example if you were a counsel for the television industry, you might say "listen up on this issue because it can apply to you some day" kids watching stuff that they're not supposed to watch.

M. Raddish: Right.

J. Callaway: Therefore we'd better ban these programs.

M. Raddish: Although the broadcast industry is viewed somewhat differently for First Amendment purposes by the Supreme Court.

J. Callaway: Ms. Posner, you wanted to get back in.

K. Posner: Well, what I wanted to get back into was when we were talking about advertising and use. There are countries now in Europe that have banned, you know, tobacco advertising and in Norway, they're showing that the level of youth smoking is the same as it was in 1975 and in Finland, it's actually a lot higher, even though there is no tobacco advertising allowed there at all. So I don't think it has anything to do with the advertising.

J. Callaway: How do you as an individual human being feel about kids smoking and being encouraged one way or the other Ms. Posner?

K. Posner: I don't think they're being encouraged to smoke. Children smoke because they want to look sophisticated. As soon as they know that something is not allowed, they want to do it.

J. Callaway: Would you like to stop it if you could, if you could. If you could stop kids from smoking would you like to do that.

K. Posner: If I could stop children, yeah. And I'd like to stop myself from eating too much sugar, too much fat. There's a lot of things that I do that aren't good for me, but it's my own choice and that's what's so important to me is that it's my choice and my right to do what I want to do.

J. Callaway: You have the right to be wrong.

K. Posner: Right.

J. Callaway: Even if I say "oh, Kathy, you're being wrong when you do . . ." you want that right.

K. Posner: I want that right.

J. Callaway: You want the right to have responsibility for yourself.

J. Garrison: But another fact here, the fact is that there have been number one American Medical Association Reports indicating, just came out in the last six weeks, advertising to kids has in fact made a difference. But the other thing that happens is 90% of kids start smoking before they're 18 years old. And then they do start smoking because they do see advertising, there is peer pressure. We're trying to find why they are starting to smoke. And the documents that the tobacco industry has, that we are now just starting to see, 39,00 more of them came out today, we're hoping maybe we can find out something from the tobacco industry.

J. Callaway: Now this is the Minnesota . . .

J. Garrison: The Minnesota documents.

J. Callaway: Now Mr. DuChesne, I just want to quote Newt Gingrich, saying on the Larry King Show "I thought that the documents that came out proved that the tobacco companies had tried to addict 14 years olds and proved that they've been lying to us for the past 40 years, totally left the tobacco companies without any defense. I don't think any serious person's going to take the tobacco claim seriously about anything for a long, long time." If Newt Gingrich says that sir, do you see your advertising campaign, these big full page ads as having any impact whatsoever on the Republicans that control this Congress.

S. DuChesne: I think we're seeing over the last several days since these messages began reaching the American people that there is a sense out there that they don't' want big government reaching into their lives more than they already are at this point. You know, I'll say this about the documents. Many documents have come out over the last few years and there is nothing new that's coming out in these documents.

J. Callaway: You've known all along that the companies have been trying to mislead us.

S. DuChesne: Those documents are being used by those who wish to continue the assault on the tobacco industry and the people who use these products. Those documents are being used by people who don't, who aren't serious about resolving these sensitive youth smoking issues in this country once and for all and addressing the problem of underage tobacco use in this country.

J. Callaway: Mr. Garrison, I want you to comment on this question and I'll probably ask you to do it over the credits cause we're getting close to being time. But isn't it also incumbent upon those of you who want to reduce teen smoking to acknowledge that the administration is using this legislation as a cash cow? Let me get your answer, I see our time is up. Our many thanks to Steve DuChesne, John Garrison, Kenneth Moll, and Kathy Posner and Mark Raddish for being with us this evening.

J. Callaway: Is it a cash cow?

J. Garrison: No, tobacco control is a public health issue. That's why we need the increase in the costs of increase because teenagers are price sensitive.