Late today I received an email from my old boss Attorney General Scott Harshbarger reminding his former Assistant AGs that June 20 is the 20th anniversary of when a “bi-partisan group of state attorneys general announced the AG Tobacco Settlement, an historic victory on behalf of kids and the public health aimed at preventing the leading cause of death and disease.” Scott included an email trail from a few of the key players, and let me share them here.
From the courageous Mike Moore AG of Mississippi, a key leader to those in the AG community who fought with him:
20 years ago tomorrow WE all put together the essence of what has dramatically reduced the death and disease from tobacco in this country and all over the world. Less than 5 per cent of kids are smoking now, and 15 per cent of adults. Millions of lives have been saved and we all did that.............what ever else we may do in life, nothing will Ever compare to the magnitude of that amazing victory. Thank you for your hard work, courage and determination, maybe we can all get together one day soon and re celebrate this awesome collaboration. Happy June 20!!!!!!! Please share with others as you choose.
From Matt Myers of Tobacco Free Kids:
See the change in smoking rates among kids - it is nothing short of miraculous. Smoking rates among high school kids were over 36% when you were litigating. Today they are at 8% - think of the lives that have been impacted! At the same time, progress has been uneven - disproportionately, it is the poor, especially the poor living in states that have not embraced tobacco control who smoke. We have come far but we have a distance to go.
And from Scott’s First Assistant Attorney General, the truly remarkable Tom Green:
In addition to all the massive public health gains so well-itemized by Matt, as the banker in the group, I'd be remiss in not mentioning the $119.5 Billion MSA payments made to States to date as shown on this NAAG link - http://www.naag.org/assets/redesign/files/msa-tobacco/2017-04-20%20Payments%20to%20States%20Inception%20thru%20April%2019%2C%202017.pdf
- plus the tens of billions received by Mississippi, Florida, MINN and TX on top of that total. While unfortunately a lot of the money has not gone to health programs, it has increased the cost of the product and, through the higher youth elasticity, contributed at least in some way to the harm reduction goals.
If you wanted unbeatable 20 years ago you’d have to look at Big Tobacco, not only an evil corporate conspiracy but one that lied more often most of us brush our teeth. But Big Tobacco couldn’t beat the tenacity and brilliance of public servants like Mike Moore, Matt Myers, and Tom Green. Nor Scott Harshbarger, who fearlessly committed his office’s time and legal talent into a battle against an nearly invincible foe.
Scott always told us Assistant AGs that our job was to fight like hell “on behalf of those who without us had no one.” So if your kid never started smoking, send a note of thanks to Mike Moore, Matt Myers, to Scott Harshbarger and Tom Green and the Massachusetts Assistant Attorneys General who fought for you.