Former Government Health Leaders Say Funding Must Continue

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 23, 2005 - The truth® youth anti-smoking campaign can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in smoking related health care costs and productivity losses, according to the Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth, a group composed of every former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and Health and Human Services; every former U.S. Surgeon General; and every former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the first time in the nation's history that all past top federal health officials have joined together in a common pursuit: to end smoking by children and teens and get the tobacco companies to continue financing the Public Education Fund, which provides the resources to conduct the truth® campaign. The newest member of the Commission is former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, who banned smoking from all HHS outdoor campuses just prior to leaving his post.

The Commission based its analysis on findings in a peer-reviewed article from the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health, which credits truth® with reducing the number of children and teen smokers by 300,000 from 2000 to 2002.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of smokers will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases. Since 90 percent of adult smokers are hooked as children and teens, the 300,000 children who chose not to smoke because of their exposure to truth® will almost certainly not become adult smokers. As a result, 100,000 of them will not die prematurely of smoking-related diseases and thousands more will not be permantently disabled by cancers and heart and respiratory diseases caused by smoking. Moreover, adult smokers account for $3,400 each annually in smoking related health care costs and lost productivity. By keeping 300,000 kids from being smokers, truth® will save $1 billion in health care costs each year.

"Ending funding for the truth® campaign is a death sentence for hundreds of thousands of children," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr. Commission chairman and the former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare who started the national anti-smoking campaign in 1978. "This is nearly double the number of U.S. fatalities suffered during the entire Vietnam War."

Califano called upon the tobacco companies to agree to efforts by several state attorneys general to amend the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement to require the tobacco companies to continue payments to the Public Education Fund so that the truth® campaign can continue to protect our nation's children. It's time for tobacco companies to end their quest for children and teens to replace their dead and disabled adult smokers. If the words of tobacco executives about not pushing their addictive drug on children are worth more than the paper that wraps their cigarettes, they should legally bind themselves to put their resources behind their rhetoric and support the truth® campaign, Califano said.

The Commission's findings were released at a Washington, D.C. event marking the fifth anniversary of truth®. The Commission noted that the campaign will eliminate thousands of cases of cancer, heart attack, emphysema, stroke, chronic bronchitis and other killing and crippling diseases.

"Ending smoking by American children and teens is crucial to the health of our nation," said Louis Sullivan, M.D., President Emeritus of the Morehouse School of Medicine, Secretary of Health and Human Services under President H.W. Bush and a member of the Citizens' Commission. "Raising the price of cigarettes has not been enough. Warning vendors not to sell cigarettes to minors has not been enough. Prohibiting tobacco companies from advertising to children has not been enough. That is why it is imperative that children stop wanting cigarettes. And the American Legacy Foundation's truth® campaign convinces kids to reject tobacco."

Former Secretary Thompson added, "While I was at HHS, I would see people smoking outside of my office building and would actually take the cigarettes out of their mouths. I would tell them that I love them and want them to be healthy. I wish I could patrol all the schoolyards of America, pulling cigarettes from the mouths of our children, but I can't. That is why we need a campaign to reach out to kids and convince them not to pick up a cigarette in the first place."

The Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth was formed to shine a spotlight on the continued need to fund truth®, the only independent national youth counter marketing campaign with demonstrated results in keeping children and teens from smoking. Among its efforts, the Commission is demanding that big tobacco companies continue financing the Public Education Fund under the Master Settlement Agreement reached with the states in 1998. After March 2003, the tobacco companies (Phillip Morris (Altria), Brown and Williamson, R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard) were no longer required under the agreement to make annual payments to the Public Education Fund, which enables the American Legacy Foundation to conduct the truth® campaign. The payments are required only if the participating tobacco manufacturers control 99.05 percent of the cigarette market. Although participating companies no longer meet that threshold, their market share remains well above 90 percent. The Citizens' Commission also files amicus briefs in pending litigation against tobacco companies in order to bring to the attention of presiding judges the importance of funding truth® and ask that the judges include orders to fund the campaign as a remedy for tobacco company misconduct.

Contact: Richard Mulieri, 212-841-5306,



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