Tuesday, September 13, 2005

American Legacy Foundation Bemoans "Missed Opportunity" by DOJ to Help Smokers Quit

In a press release issued last week, the American Legacy Foundation bemoaned what it called the Department of Justice's "missed opportunity" to secure a national smoking cessation program to help the nation's smokers quit. The Foundation stated that DOJ's failure to request $130 billion for the smoking cessation remedy is a missed chance to prevent smoking-related deaths.

According to the release: "The American Legacy Foundation applauds Dr. Michael Fiore for writing in this month’s New England Journal of Medicine to expose the missed opportunity caused by the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to dramatically decrease the size of a potential smoking cessation plan and thereby prevent smoking-caused death and disease. ... The American Legacy Foundation believes in the elements that Dr. Fiore and others outlined in this national cessation plan. ... The $10 billion plan will provide some help to smokers, but it will not have the impact that the $130-billion program could have made on smoking."

The Rest of the Story

There's just one thing missing from the press release. That's the fact that the American Legacy Foundation probably stood to gain $600 million a year from the originally proposed smoking cessation program, money that it is certainly not going to see if the more limited plan is approved.

A huge component of the proposed national smoking cessation program was a mass media anti-smoking (public education) campaign to motivate smokers to quit and to make them aware of resources to help them quit. While this money was not earmarked specifically to Legacy, the other aspects of the requested public education campaign were, and it is most likely that Legacy would be chosen to administer this aspect of the public education campaign as well.

According to the interveners' post-trial brief, "a cessation-specific public education campaign funded at the level of $600 million is necessary to support an overall cessation scheme of the scope proposed here. The $600 million for cessation is part of the larger $1.2 billion to be paid annually by the defendants for all public education related activities - $600 million for cessation and $600 million for public education and counter-marketing to reduce youth smoking, educate consumers about the health risks associated with the use of and exposure to various tobacco products, and educating consumers about the health risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke.

So what Legacy is bemoaning here is not just the "missed opportunity" for a larger smoking cessation program, but a missed opportunity for Legacy to reap in $600 million annually. But nowhere in the press release is it disclosed that Legacy stands to gain financially from the originally proposed smoking cessation remedy. I think that's a relatively important fact for the public to know if Legacy is going to suggest to the public that there was some sort of political wrongdoing going on here that could result in increased deaths from tobacco-related disease.

And that's exactly what is going on here - after all, by applauding the New England Journal of Medicine article, which insinuates that political interference led to the reduction in the smoking cessation remedy, Legacy is indirectly adding its own weight to that claim. If Legacy is trying to distance itself from that political attack, then it should certainly not have applauded this particular article.

Actually, the "truth" is that this was not a missed opportunity at all, unless you want to call it a missed opportunity to have a proposed remedy struck down in short order as being unavailable under the law. It hardly seems like any opportunity was missed when a $130 billion disallowable remedy was abandoned for a $10 billion unallowable remedy. And the smoking cessation plan would never have resulted in the prevention of smoking-related disease and death. How could it if it never saw the light of day?

The rest of the story is that the American Legacy Foundation stood to gain financially, to the tune of $600 million annually, from the very proposal whose abandonment it is publicly bemoaning. But it also appears to be hiding that fact. I think the rest of the story is something that, in this situation, the public deserves to know.

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