Gillibrand Uses Web Ad For Rapid Response

D-N.Y., has begun using Google AdWords, a program that lets webmasters create their own ads and choose keywords, to respond to Thursday’s front page New York Times article about her history of defending tobacco companies. Simply search for “Gillibrand” on Google and an ad from her campaign proclaiming that “Gillibrand Fights Tobacco” should appear to the right. The ad links to a page on her campaign Web site that highlights her anti-tobacco record. A second ad that is displayed points to an immigration reform Web site and the third points to the Times article itself. Gillibrand’s campaign usage of the targeted Web advertising platform hints at the future of rapid response in the digital age.
Gillibrand holds a big lead over Republican Rep. Peter King, but would face a more difficult race if former Republican Gov. George Pataki entered it, according to a recent Siena College poll. The poll showed Gillibrand leading King 47-23 percent and she is tied at 41 percent apiece, when matched up against Pataki. Search is a natural tool for political rapid response, said Peter Greenberger, team manager for elections and issues advocacy at Google. “As news breaks, people go online to find more information. Savvy political advertisers take advantage of that spike in interest to get their message in front of voters and lawmakers at the exact moment of relevance,” he said.
President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., led the way in 2008 by using search for crisis communications, and now other political campaigns and issue groups are adopting the same strategies, Greenberger added. Google expects to see a lot more of this in 2009 and beyond. He said his team is already seeing political campaigns use Google earlier and to a greater degree than ever before.
Source: Techdailydose

Canada’s Boom in Smuggled Cigarettes

Gary Godelie has been a tobacco farmer most of his life, struggling to keep alive a family farm that produces what most everyone agrees is a death crop. Whacked by global competition undercutting his prices, not to mention a dwindling number of Canadian smokers, he often thinks of getting out of the business.
Nothing brought this thought home more clearly than a series of events that began one hot July day in 2006 when two men drove up to his southern Ontario farm and offered to buy his entire crop. That surprised Godelie because anybody in the tobacco business would know that Canadian growers are part of a tightly regulated quota system. Buyers have to be federally licensed and can buy only through the marketing board.
“I said, ‘Well no. I can’t sell you tobacco. I have to sell it to the legal system,’” Godelie recalled. “They kind of looked at me and laughed and like said, ‘Why would you want to do that when we’re offering you cash money, a deal here, you know.’ ‘Well, no, I’m not going to do that kind of stuff.’”
The two men drove off and Godelie thought that was the end of it.
Then a few days later he had to fetch some irrigation equipment from a barn where he had stacked 169 bales that were over quota from last year’s tobacco crop. He hoped to sell the surplus bales at auction that winter as part of the current year’s quota. The first clue that something was wrong came when he saw his hydraulic forklift sitting on the hood of his tractor. In his mind he blamed his son-in-law. But then he thought that that wasn’t typical, that his son-in-law wouldn’t have done something like that. Then he switched on the light and saw why he knew in his heart that something wasn’t right.
“I stood there kind of flabbergasted for a minute and then I scanned over the stacks and then it hit me, oh, no, they had cleaned out the barn completely.”
It had rained the previous night so Godelie hadn’t gone out to irrigate. That was the night they nailed him. He said he figured that at 40 pounds a bale it took them maybe 20 minutes to clean him out. “They stole all 169 bales, which… is (about) 8,000 pounds. It takes about 1.9 pounds to make 1,000 cigarettes. That’s more than 4 million cigarettes. That’s pretty significant. Now we’re talking some serious coin. For me it was about a C$20,000 loss” (or roughly US$18,000 at the time).
It wasn’t long before Godelie began hearing about other tobacco farmers getting hit. The thefts became so widespread that farmers began installing security systems, barring barn windows, and parking disabled tractors in front of their barn doors. But to little effect.
“Now they are so brazen they take chain saws and they cut the side walls out of the barn,” said Linda Vandendriessche, chair of the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers’ Marketing Board and herself a tobacco farmer. “It’s no joke. You will not believe the intimidation that is going on with our farmers.”
The thefts are the result of a new brand of tobacco smuggling that has flooded the Canadian market with contraband cigarettes and cigarillos made by clandestine manufacturers in Canada and the United States. Over the last six years, as Ottawa and provincial governments began hiking tobacco taxes to curb smoking and raise funds, the smuggling business has grown “exponentially,” according to the country’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). At a time when a crumbling economy has forced governments into deficit financing, Canadian smugglers — dominated by members of Indian tribes and in some cases their mob partners — are pocketing hundreds of millions in profits. The cheap cigarettes not only fuel the spread of smoking, which costs Canadians more than C$4 billion annually in health care, but also rob governments of money that otherwise would go into official coffers to pay for healthcare and other services. The federal, Quebec and Ontario governments alone claim the proliferation of untaxed cigarettes is costing them at least C$1.6 billion a year.
The size of this tobacco-fueled black market is huge. Both industry and government studies indicate that, across Canada, two to three cigarettes out of every ten sold are now contraband. According to the most recent study, by Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada, contraband in 2007 made up 27 per cent of the Canadian tobacco market. In Ontario and Quebec the figure climbs as high as four out of ten. This conforms with an earlier study done by the nation’s health ministry, Health Canada. “We’re making more cigarettes than Imperial Tobacco [Canada’s leading tobacco company],” boasted one Indian smuggler.
All those contraband cigarettes are fueling a black market conservatively estimated at C$1.3 billion, with profit margins rivaling those of narcotics. And the market is growing rapidly. Seizures of contraband tobacco in Canada jumped a whopping 16-fold between 2001 and 2006, according to the RCMP. The off-the-books smokes range from independently-produced cigarettes sold in plastic bags to expertly counterfeited packs of leading brands. In some cases cheap Indian brands have become so popular that rival Indian manufacturers are counterfeiting them.
So vast are the profits, and so poorly are the laws enforced, that the contraband tobacco industry has attracted an unholy alliance of Canadian Indians — who say they have the right to sell untaxed cigarettes — and members of various organized crime gangs, according to law enforcement officials and the smugglers themselves. At the center of the trade are about 20 Indian-owned manufacturers that produce millions of untaxed and unregulated cigarettes a day out of small and medium-sized factories at Indian reserves in Ontario, Quebec, and across the border in New York State. An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found that outlaw bikers, Italian, Irish, Russian, and Asian mobs are also now involved in the manufacturing, distribution, and retailing of the illicit tobacco products. According to Indian smugglers and police, in some cases the capital to buy the equipment and set up operations was fronted by organized crime.
Recent joint U.S.-Canadian police investigations indicate that drug money has been used to finance the tobacco business. Tobacco profits are likewise used to buy cocaine and marijuana, which are smuggled across the border using the same networks as for tobacco. Large cash seizures are common at the border and along Highway 401 in Ontario, which has become a smugglers’ pipeline to Montreal and Toronto.
In March 2008, federal, provincial, and Mohawk police in three reserves — Akwesasne, Kahnawake, and Kanesatake — seized about C$2 million in cash after raiding a cigarette/marijuana smuggling operation. In just two seizures on Nov. 17 and Dec. 7 last year, Canadian Border Services agents seized C$636,467 in U.S. and Canadian funds hidden in vehicles driven by Indians from Akwesasne, the reserve that straddles the border between Ontario, Quebec, and New York. In addition, the RCMP on Feb. 19 seized US$260,000 from an Indian driving from Akwesasne to Quebec. Police believe that the cash is linked to drug sales into the United States
Source: Publicintegrity

Government 'complacent' over cigarette smuggling

Anti-tobacco groups have accused the Government of complacency over the use of children by organised crime gangs to smuggle cigarettes into Ireland.
Ash, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation said they were shocked and outraged at the investigation aired this week by RTE’s Prime Time , which found children as young as 14 were being used to sell illegal and counterfeit cigarettes around the country.
The investigation found that the smuggled cigarettes were on sale openly in casual markets and estimated that each carton of 200 sold on the black market represented a loss of about €65 to the exchequer.
“In the Dáil yesterday, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan appears to have ruled out a tobacco price increase in the forthcoming Budget even though it would yield an estimated a badly needed €420 million to the Exchequer, without any significant impact on inflation. Instead the Minister, in a letter to us, has cited the excuse of smuggling as a reason not to increase tax on tobacco, even though there is compelling evidence to show that such an increase would deter young people from starting and encourage smokers to quit,” said Irish Cancer Society chief executive John McCormack.
The ICS said it was shocked by the Government’s attitude to what it described as “a major public health issue”. There are an estimated 7,000 deaths every year related to tobacco, with 1,700 people dying from lung cancer.
Chief executive of the Irish Heart Foundation Michael O’Shea said the organisation was angered by the Government’s “apparent inability” to control the smuggling of illicit tobacco products into Ireland.
“The failure by government to tackle the growth in smuggling is not a good enough reason not to protect the health of our children from cigarette smoking. This is a national disgrace,” he said.
“It is not acceptable to let criminal activity dictate social measures to protect the health of our children and young people. It is not acceptable to say there will be no increase in tobacco prices – a proven deterrent to new and existing smokers – because smuggling will increase.”
He called for the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern to increase resources to deter smugglers through measures such as increased penalties and prosecutions.
Source: Irishtimes

Finland banning display of tobacco

A ministerial group of finnish social policy  proposed on Wednesday a range of measures to restrict access to tobacco pruduct, including a ban on the display of smoking tobacco in most shops or stores.
This group  proposed also banning smoking in places where children spend time.
The finnish ministerial group added passenger imports of snuff should be capped at 30 tins and resale and distribution banned.

Senator Gillibrand Votes 100% Against Tobacco

In Congress, Senator Gillibrand stands up 100% of the time for the health of children and families and against the interests of the big tobacco companies. She has consistently voted in favor of tough laws to regulate the tobacco industry and to ensure public health.
Increasing Funding for Children’s Health Care by Increasing Taxes on Cigarettes: Senator Gillibrand repeatedly voted in both the House and the Senate to raise cigarette taxes to increase access to health insurance for low-income children. In 2007, 2008 and in 2009, Gillibrand voted for bill that would increase the tax on cigarettes by 61 cents to $1 per pack and raise taxes on other tobacco products to offset an expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This bill became law this year.
Regulating Tobacco through the Food and Drug Administration: Last year, Senator Gillibrand co-sponsored and voted for a bill to mandate FDA regulation of tobacco products that was strongly endorsed by the public health community, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that will crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids, require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products, require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products and changes to their products and research about the health effects of the products, ban candy-flavored cigarettes and prohibit terms that mislead consumers into believing that certain cigarettes are safer.
Supporting Smoke-Free Workplace Laws: Sen. Gillibrand wholeheartedly supports smoke-free laws that require workplaces and public places to be smoke-free to eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke. Senator Gillibrand strongly supports the NY State Smoke-Free Law that became effective in 2003 and amended New York State Clean Indoor Air Act to prohibit smoking in virtually all workplaces, including restaurants and bars and reflected the state’s commitment to ensuring that all workers are protected from secondhand smoke.
Educating Our Children to Prevent Smoking: Sen. Gillibrand is a proponent of education initiatives that will prevent young people from starting to smoke in the first place. Anti-smoking prevention programs are critical to ensuring that future generations are smoke-free, and, therefore, are not at-risk to the myriad health-related problems linked to tobacco use.
Cracking Down On Internet Trafficking and Internet Tobacco Sales To Children: Senator Gillibrand supports Internet access regulation to ensure that underage kids can’t purchase cigarettes online. Additionally, she voted for the PACT (Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking) Act that comprehensively addressed the growing problem of tobacco excise tax evasion caused by Internet sales of tobacco products.
Increasing Support for Tobacco Cessation Programs: Senator Gillibrand also supports increasing access to tobacco cessation programs to help tobacco users quit so they can lead healthier and more active lives. These programs are critical to helping people kick their addiction to tobacco and Senator Gillibrand commends the efforts of tobacco users to get the help they need to start leading healthier lives.
Senator Gillibrand deeply understands the major public health threat that is posed by smoking and other tobacco products. This is why she will continue to support efforts that are in support of a strong public health agenda and that are at odds with the interests of the big tobacco lobby.

AUB team conduct research to help snuff out nargileh and cigarette smoking

A team of AUB faculty members and researchers have been all fired up about the pioneering studies they have been conducting to help snuff out the unhealthy habit of smoking in Lebanon.
In particular, the team has spearheaded studies on the health effects and mechanism of nargileh smoking, and on the importance of warning labels on water-pipe tobacco.
Under the umbrella of AUB’s Tobacco Control Research Group, which was established in 1999, academics from a variety of disciplines, including public health, engineering, medicine, and chemistry, have been producing top-notch research material to help policy-makers in Lebanon enhance the effectiveness of their policies on tobacco control.
“Through our research projects, we hope to help policy-makers identify and overcome local barriers to implementing non-smoking policies,” said Assistant Research Professor Rima Nakkash from the Department of Public Health and a member of the group. “We have now compiled enough research data to allow us to move into disseminating information and raising awareness as well as policy advocacy.”
According to established research, tobacco smoking is responsible for five million deaths every year worldwide, the great majority of which are in the third world. It is also the only consumer product that harms every person exposed to it and kills half of its regular lifetime users. Tobacco is found in a variety of products smoked in Lebanon including cigarettes, nargileh, cigars, and pipes.
What worries AUB public health experts is that the international tobacco industry is continuing to target people – especially youth and women, in the low and middle-income countries such as Lebanon, to increase its sales as it loses markets in high-income countries. One way of doing that is by marketing for “Light” cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, both of which are not considered safer alternatives to regular cigarettes by researchers.
Lebanon ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, which suggests a variety of policies necessary to protect the health of citizens.
“To date Lebanon has shown little commitment towards the implementation of the FCTC, although the majority of Lebanese support smoking bans and regulation of tobacco advertising and sales,” according to the AUB Tobacco Research Group. FCTC policies include implementing complete bans on smoking in public places, and printing picture warnings on tobacco products.
The FCTC targets tobacco control through policies aimed at four issues: preventing uptake of smoking, protecting from second-hand smoke, promoting cessation, and regulating products.
The AUB team has been working on all these issues, but their latest work focused on proposals to improve regulation and prevent uptake. In particular, water-pipe tobacco has captured the attention of researchers, as it has up till now escaped regulation forcing it to display warning labels, which would quash prevailing misconceptions that nargileh smoking is a relatively harmless activity.
“There is a smoking epidemic,” said Dr. Ghazi Zaatari, who heads the department of pathology and laboratory medicine and is a member of the AUB tobacco group, noting that there are currently 1.3 billion smokers worldwide. In other words, 1 in 5 people in the world are smokers.
Cigarettes contain 4600 chemical toxicants, said Zaatari, who is also the chair of the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation. These include rat poison, arsenic, ammonia, which is a toilet cleaner, industrial solvents, formaldehyde, which is used to make paint, and explosives, in addition to tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, which is a component of car exhaust.
Health professionals and researchers are lobbying to increase the number of substances that are regulated in cigarette smoke, only a fraction of which are currently regulated. Tobacco control advocates are pushing to increase the number that is regulated to at least 44 chemicals.
“Although there is no such thing as a safe cigarette, by regulating chemicals, we hope to reduce harm to consumers,” said Zaatari.
“The industry is capable and has the technology to reduce the level of harmful carcinogens, but they refuse to do it,” said Zaatari. “Why? Because it will affect the taste of the cigarette, which may cause people to quit.”
Scientists have found that additives in tobacco can increase the addictive effect of nicotine and thus make cigarettes a harder habit to kick.
That’s tobacco control advocates are pressuring the tobacco industry through the FCTC to disclose all the contents of cigarettes, said Zaatari. In parallel stricter content regulation should be imposed.
What’s more the FTCT will not allow manufacturers to list the contents of the cigarette as a means to market them as safer products.
Zaatari said that although in the 1960s and 1970s efforts were made to produce a “safer” cigarette with a lower tar content, the result was cigarettes with more additives, designed to deliver toxins into the lower lungs instead the upper lungs, and thus cause cancer deeper in the lungs. They were marketed as “Light” or “Ultra Light” cigarettes, which researchers have proved to be just as harmful as regular cigarettes.
Zaatari also explained that researchers have managed to push for stricter criteria for smoking machines that are used to set smoke content levels.
“The current testing method is controlled by the tobacco industry,” said Zaatari.
The AUB team is also simultaneously working on introducing warning labels to waterpipe smoking, which has been proven to be as harmful, if not more, than cigarette smoking, contrary to popular perception. But since the habit is often practiced in restaurants and cafes that prepare the waterpipe for the consumer, researchers had to come up with creative methods to deliver their message about the harms of nargileh smoking.
Unlike cigarette smokers, nargileh smokers don’t necessarily buy the tobacco or even the pipe itself, so warnings on the tobacco pack might not be seen by consumers.
Rima Nakkash, who researched this topic, found that pictorial warnings on restaurant menus and waterpipe accessories, such as the mouthpiece and the hose, might prove more effective.
In any case, currently, not only do waterpipe tobacco products not bear any warnings, but they in fact display misleading information, about tar and nicotine content, noted Nakkash.
The AUB team is hard at work to promote effective and implementable non-smoking policy making. Team members Alan Shihadeh and Najat Saliba, from engineering and chemistry, respectively, have already identified the complex mechanism by which a waterpipe delivers chemicals to smokers, while Professors Rima Afifi and Monique Chaaya have been studying public perception and behavior with respect to smoking-related topics.
Most recently on March 7-12, six faculty members participated in the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Mumbai, India, which was attended by about 2500 scientists, government officials, and health organizations from 130 countries. There, they shared their latest findings with top researchers in the field.
Moreover, the International Development Research Center, a Canadian government-affiliated body, has granted about $37,000 to allow Nakkash and her colleagues, Professors Rima Afif and Monique Chaaya, to evaluate the implementation and enforcement of smoke-free policies in Lebanon.
Source: Albawaba

Genetically Stratifying Smoking-Cessation Trials Could Save Up to $15M, Researchers Find

With genotyping costs declining and the cost of conducting conventional trials increasing, researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Duke University have modeled data suggesting it may save money to genetically stratify patients in clinical trials for smoking cessation.
In mid-sized Phase II trials enrolling around 200 patients, “there was the clearest benefit for genotyping under a wide range of assumptions, [such as] cost per subject for the trial and genotyping cost per subject,” lead study author George Uhl of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week.
The findings of the study, published in The Pharmacogenomics Journal, shed light onto the circumstances in which genotyping may be cost-effective in smoking-cessation studies, and could help inform the design of studies for other addictions and disease indications, the study authors noted.
In their modeling, the researchers attempted to capture half the total genetic influence of genotyping using a technique called half-max stratification. They assumed the genotyping cost per participant will be $150, $300, or $500. With half-max stratification and 0.9 power, the researchers determined they would need to recruit around 200 patients — 100 for treatment and 100 for placebo — and genotype 1,019 individuals. A non-stratified study of the same power would require around 450 patients, researchers calculated.
Assuming that genotyping costs $150 per patient, and trial costs range from $4,000 per patient for academic trails to $25,000 per patient for industry-sponsored trials, the researchers calculated direct savings of between $4 million to $15 million for conducting stratified versus non-stratified trials.
At genotyping costs of $300 per subject with similar range for trial and recruitment costs, savings from half-max genetic stratification are projected to be between $70,000 and $5.7 million. If genotyping costs rise to $500 per subject, and similar trial/recruitment costs are assumed, then savings from half-max genetic stratification could reach between $274,000 and $5.5 million, respectively, the study found.
Given these results, the researchers conclude that the “results of the current simulation studies appear to justify careful consideration of use of genotypic stratification for medium-sized trials that are characteristic of Phase II drug testing.”
In their modeling, the researchers used 2,311 previously published SNPs shown to distinguish individuals who were successful and from those who were unsuccessful from quitting smoking. According to Uhl, most of the variants seem to predict patient response to bupropion and nicotine replacement therapies “equally well,” while some variants appear to only predict response to nicotine-replacement thereapies.
Uhl identified calsyntenin 2 as among the most promising gene linked to patients’ ability to stop smoking. “Since memory or thinking complaints are some of the difficulties that are reported to block success in individuals who try to quit, CLSTN2 is a highly plausible gene in which allelic variants could provide relatively selective influences on nicotine replacement therapies’ effects on cessation,” Uhl added.
As more of these smoking-cessation SNPs are validated in further studies, the cost/benefit associated with genetic stratification in smoking-cessation trials should also become more apparent, according to the study authors.
“More study is required to precisely determine the variance in quitting success that can be accounted for by the SNPs that are currently identified, and to precisely classify individuals who may display varying degrees of genetic versus environmental effects into quitters or nonquitters,” the study authors wrote in The Pharmacogenomics Journal. “However, the data at hand do allow us to model the effects of genotypic stratification in smoking-cessation trials.”
According to Uhl, the researchers are working to write up data from further validating studies that include both retrospective and prospective work. “We hope that we will have these results analyzed later in this year,” Uhl said, without elaborating.
Although Uhl and his team have identified common variants and clinical variables linked to peoples’ ability stop smoking, he acknowledged that none of the identified SNPs has “large effects.”
Still, the researchers “would be happy to work with [industry] partners to facilitate development of these genetic tests,” he said.
Source: Genomeweb

FDA Overburdened with Food Safety, Can’t Regulate Tobacco, Industry Reps Say

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is busy enough without taking on the task of regulating tobacco, industry representatives told lawmakers Thursday.
Washington, D.C. – infoZine – Scripps Howard Foundation Wire – A bill introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., would add tobacco to the FDA’s list of responsibilities. But witnesses and legislators – many from tobacco-growing states – agreed at a subcommittee hearing that the agency has its hands full policing food, drugs and medical devices.
“I’m not convinced that FDA is the right agency to provide regulation,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, in his first hearing as the senior Republican member of the House subcommittee dealing with specialty crops, rural development and foreign agriculture.
“They’re having problems with food safety and other areas. They have not done a spectacular job.”
The FDA is dealing with a salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 690 people since September and killed nine. The outbreak, linked to peanuts manufactured in two plants, led many politicians to propose restructuring the agency or increasing its food-safety powers.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would allow the FDA to prevent the sale of tobacco to minors, reduce toxic constituents of tobacco products and regulate claims about reduced-risk cigarettes.
Two House committees approved the bill, which Waxman also introduced in the last Congress.
North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler – who couldn’t attend and was represented by Graham Boyd of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina – and other witnesses said they instead support legislation by Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ill. The bill would allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a tobacco regulatory agency with a similar mission.
“Growers realize and understand that tobacco products will be regulated by the U.S. government in the future and that tobacco harm reduction will be pursued,” said Jessie Thomas Bunn, president of the Raleigh, N.C.-based U.S. Tobacco Cooperative. “This cooperative supports [Buyer’s bill] because of the bill’s rational pursuit of tobacco harm reduction.”
North Carolina Republican Richard Burr introduced similar legislation in the Senate with the support of Democratic colleague Kay Hagan.
Witnesses at Thursday’s hearing said the domestic tobacco industry already is struggling because of cigarette tax increases, cheap tobacco grown in other countries, and the possibility that supply could outstrip demand and drive tobacco prices down.
Too much regulation could drive growers out of business, they said.
“You know the weather is going to be a variable that’s always important; you know commodity prices are going to fluctuate; you know that the labor challenges are what they are,” Boyd said. “What is difficult is to anticipate the extensive amount of over-burdensome consequences that are occurring from the politics that surround tobacco.”
The industry is a huge part of the economy in much of the Southeast, said Blake Brown, an agricultural economist at North Carolina State University.
North Carolina produces almost half of the tobacco grown in the United States.
Source: Infozine

Jobs or lives? Tobacco makes its case against regulation

Tobacco manufacturing jobs, which pay more than twice the average salary of other private industries in North Carolina, are “under siege” by tax increases and other government proposals, growers and their advocates told lawmakers here Thursday.
“The last thing North Carolina, or any state, needs right now is more lost jobs,” North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in written remarks to a House agriculture subcommittee.
The North Carolina tobacco crop was worth $686 million last year, and the industry pumped a total of $24 billion into the state’s economy with more than 10,000 jobs.
Farmers and tobacco academics from large producing states testified on Capitol Hill about the possible ripple effects that regulating tobacco would have on local farms.
They are hoping to build opposition to legislation, which appears to have the support of a majority of both houses in Congress, that would give the Food and Drug Administration oversight over tobacco.
The farmers are backing an alternative bill, co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., who chaired Thursday’s hearing, and in the Senate by Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C. It would set up a separate agency to handle the regulation, and according to McIntyre, is more explicit about keeping regulators off of farms.
“The last thing we want is for government bureaucrats to be coming on the farm,” McIntyre said.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and sponsor of the FDA regulation bill, said his version has protections for farmers while giving authority to the agency.
“The bill provides numerous explicit protections for farmers, including language preventing the FDA from entering a farm without the farmer’s written consent,” he said through a spokeswoman. “Growers will also have a seat at the table in advising the FDA on any new standards that it sets.”
A. Blake Brown, an agricultural economist at North Carolina State University, said tobacco companies have already lowered orders from farmers this year, anticipating a decline in demand since Congress increased the federal tax by 61 cents per pack to pay for a children’s health insurance plan.
Brown said the price increase is likely to translate into a 6 percent reduction in smoking and a 2-3 percent cut in product demand from farms.
Efforts at “”arm reduction” — reducing the amount of tobacco in each cigarette and shifting demand toward smokeless products — would further lower demand for the types of tobacco grown on North Carolina farms, he added.
Nortrh Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue has proposed a $1 per pack increase to pay for budget shortfalls, and other states have had similar proposals.
Anti-smoking advocates, who didn’t testify at the hearing, said reducing tobacco use will save money.
“Tobacco use costs the nation $96 billion a year in health-care costs and another $97 billion in lost productivity,” said Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
North Carolinians employed in tobacco manufacturing earned an average wage of $86,000 a year, compared to $39,000 for other private industry jobs, according to Troxler. The testimony of Troxler, who became ill and remained in North Carolina, was delivered by Graham Boyd, executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina.
Source: Mcclatchydc

As New Lawyer, Senator Was Active in Tobacco’s Defense

The Philip Morris Company did not like to talk about what went on inside its lab in Cologne, Germany, where researchers secretly conducted experiments exploring the effects of cigarette smoking.
So when the Justice Department tried to get its hands on that research in 1996 to prove that tobacco industry executives had lied about the dangers of smoking, the company moved to fend off the effort with the help of a highly regarded young lawyer named Kirsten Rutnik.
Ms. Rutnik, who now goes by her married name, Gillibrand, threw herself into the work. She traveled to Germany at least twice, interviewing the lab’s top scientists, whose research showed a connection between smoking and cancer but was kept far from public view.
She helped contend with prosecution demands for evidence and monitored testimony of witnesses before a grand jury, following up with strategy memos to Philip Morris’s general counsel.
The industry beat back the federal perjury investigation, a significant legal victory at the time, but not one that Ms. Gillibrand is eager to discuss.
Now in the Senate seat formerly held by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ms. Gillibrand plays down her work as a lawyer representing Philip Morris, saying she was a junior associate with little control over the cases she was handed and limited involvement in defending the tobacco maker.
But a review of thousands of documents and interviews with dozens of lawyers and industry experts indicate that Ms. Gillibrand was involved in some of the most sensitive matters related to the defense of the tobacco giant as it confronted pivotal legal battles beginning in the mid-1990s.
Ms. Gillibrand, who worked at the Manhattan firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell from 1991 to 2000, eventually oversaw a team of associate lawyers working on Philip Morris cases, according to a colleague, and was a frequent point of contact between the firm and Philip Morris executives.
In addition, Ms. Gillibrand represented Davis Polk on a high-level Philip Morris committee whose work included shielding certain documents from disclosure, according to several lawyers and industry observers. Serving on the panel placed her alongside some of the country’s top tobacco industry lawyers.
And she was viewed so positively by Philip Morris that by 1999, when the tobacco maker brought in an additional outside law firm to represent its interests, Ms. Gillibrand was one of five Davis Polk lawyers designated to train the firm about sensitive legal issues, according to a company memo.
When she moved in 2001 to a new firm, Boies Schiller, where she worked until 2005, one of Ms. Gillibrand’s clients was the Altria Group, Philip Morris’s parent company, where she helped with securities and antitrust matters, according to the firm.
Ms. Gillibrand, 42, a former upstate congresswoman who is still unknown to many New Yorkers and is preparing to defend her Senate seat in an election next year, is reluctant to discuss her work on behalf of the tobacco company. After initially agreeing to be interviewed by The New York Times, the senator canceled through her spokesman, Matt Canter, who said that focusing on Philip Morris would not reflect the range of her work as a lawyer, which also included representing pro bono clients, including abused women and families contending with lead paint in their homes..
“Senator Gillibrand was serving as a young associate when she was assigned this case,” Mr. Canter said. “It is a small part of her 15-year legal career.”
He stressed that like other tobacco lawyers, she was not at liberty to discuss her work for Philip Morris because of attorney-client privilege.
But those who recall Ms. Gillibrand’s days as a young lawyer say she was capable and eager as she plunged into the high-stakes and lucrative world of tobacco defense work.
“The client was always in her office,” said her former Davis Polk colleague Vincent Chang, who spoke glowingly of Ms. Gillibrand. “She was probably accorded more responsibility than the average associate by far.”
Of course, many lawyers, including some who now serve in the Senate, have defended unpopular clients. Still, in an approach that was not uncommon at law firms that represented tobacco companies, lawyers at Davis Polk were permitted to decline work on the tobacco cases if they had a moral or ethical objection to the work, Mr. Chang said.
Asked whether Ms. Gillibrand had any misgivings about representing the tobacco company, Mr. Canter responded by e-mail: “Senator Gillibrand worked for the clients that were assigned to her.”
Ms. Gillibrand was never the lead lawyer on the tobacco cases, which at Davis Polk drew on the work of dozens of lawyers and staffers. Robert B. Fiske Jr., a former Whitewater prosecutor and a Davis Polk partner, was the top lawyer among the approximately 20 at the firm working on the Philip Morris defense on the perjury case. Ms. Gillibrand’s hourly rate — $305 in 1995 — put her in the middle range of reimbursement for associates on the case, according to a tobacco industry document.
Mr. Fiske declined, through the senator’s office, to be interviewed about her work for Philip Morris, but released a statement calling Ms. Gillibrand “smart, hard-working and thoughtful.”
During her most recent congressional race, Ms. Gillibrand, who is a former smoker, accepted $18,200 in campaign donations from tobacco companies and their executives — putting her among the top dozen House Democrats for such contributions. Many Congressional Democrats do not accept tobacco money.
Mr. Canter said the senator should be assessed based on her record in Congress, where she has voted against the industry’s interests on several occasions, including supporting cigarette tax increases to help expand children’s health care.
And Todd Henderson, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School, argued that it would be unfair to assess lawyers by whom they represent. “Nobody would want to live in a world in which lawyers are judged by the clients they take,” he said.
Limiting Evidence
A scion of a prominent Albany political clan, Ms Gillibrand graduated from law school at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1991 and took a job at Davis Polk, a firm that had worked closely with the tobacco industry for decades.
Ms. Gillibrand was working at the firm during critical years for the tobacco industry, as the public tide was turning against smoking, and leading Democrats in the Clinton administration and Congress pushed for a more aggressive stance toward cigarette companies. At the same time, plaintiffs’ lawyers were beginning to chip away at the industry’s time-tested legal strategies.
In 1994, executives of the nation’s largest tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, prompted anger and disbelief when they swore before Congress that they did not believe smoking was addictive or that there was a proven link between smoking and cancer.
That appearance intensified criticism of the industry and scrutiny by federal prosecutors and ultimately led to a broad criminal investigation by the Justice Department into whether the executives had perjured themselves.
The government sought reams of internal company records to determine whether the tobacco executives had lied. There is no indication that Ms. Gillibrand ever discussed the case with William Campbell, then the Philip Morris president and chief executive, who was among the subjects of the perjury inquiry. But Philip Morris internal records show that the company’s top lawyers entrusted her with several essential elements of the case.
As a member of the Eastern District of New York Subpoena Working Group, Ms. Gillibrand helped limit what evidence the government obtained. She also monitored the testimony of witnesses who appeared before the grand jury and wrote strategy memos to the Philip Morris general counsel, Ken Handal, analyzing the witnesses’ statements and their impact on the investigation.
Her travels to Germany took her to the Institut Fur Biologische Forschung, or Institute for Biological Research, a laboratory that Philip Morris had set up in Cologne, which has been criticized by antitobacco activists and cancer doctors. The establishment of the lab overseas, where topics of study included the role of tobacco in cancerous tumors, had allowed the company to keep conducting research there, beyond the reach of the United States government, news media and plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Ms. Gillibrand learned so much about the laboratory’s inner workings during the criminal investigation that by 1997, records show, she provided Philip Morris lawyers with a list of questions about the German lab to help them prepare company witnesses being called to testify in civil cases in Minnesota and elsewhere across the country.
At the laboratory, she interviewed Dr. Max Reininghaus, the general manager who oversaw the experiments, and reviewed lab personnel records that had been sought by federal investigators.
In 1998, when the case reached a turning point as one tobacco company, the Liggett Group, considered cooperating with prosecutors, Ms. Gillibrand was one of a handful of lawyers for Philip Morris privy to the unsuccessful efforts to dissuade Liggett from breaking ranks with the other cigarette makers.
She was also among the small group of Philip Morris lawyers involved in the effort to contain the damage the defection could do to other companies in the tobacco industry, pushing to prevent Philip Morris from disclosing any documents that would violate the confidentiality of the other co-defendants.
“She clearly was more than a lowly associate lawyer on the case,” said Anne Landman, a tobacco document researcher who has testified against the industry and edits, a Web site that provides analysis of tobacco documents. “Philip Morris showed deep trust in her and brought her in on sensitive legal matters that were of great importance to the company.”
In the face of the vigorous counteroffensive from the industry, the Justice Department abandoned its criminal inquiry in 1999 and decided to bring a racketeering case in civil court, claiming that the cigarette companies conspired for half a century to mislead the public about the dangers of smoking.
Ms. Gillibrand did not work on the racketeering case, on which other law firms took the lead. But when Judge Gladys Kessler of Federal District Court handed down her landmark decision in that case in 2006, finding that the tobacco companies had conspired to defraud the public, she based the ruling in part on the business practices Ms. Gillibrand had delved into during the perjury case. The judge cited Philip Morris’s use of the German lab as a way for the company to suppress evidence and scolded the company for concealing information from consumers and government regulators.
Asked last week whether Ms. Gillibrand agreed with the judge’s decision, her spokesman replied: “Senator Gillibrand did not work on that case and is not familiar with its details.”
A Rising Star
Ms. Gillibrand was also deeply involved as Philip Morris and other cigarette makers confronted another challenge: mounting accusations that the industry was abusing the attorney-client privilege to prevent disclosure of damaging research and other sensitive documents.
Legal experts and a Congressional committee said that for decades, the companies had misused the attorney-client privilege to try to conceal scientific information that was damaging to the industry. The lawyers, for example, participated in overseeing scientific research projects that they could then keep confidential. But in the 1990s, government and plaintiffs’ lawyers began directly challenging this protection.
The state of Minnesota, as part of a lawsuit seeking to force tobacco firms to pick up the state’s cost of treating smoking-related illnesses, objected to the companies’ claim of attorney-client privilege, invoking what is known as the crime-fraud exception: essentially, an assertion that the privilege did not apply because the lawyers were being used to help the companies commit fraud. A Minnesota judge agreed, saying that Philip Morris had engaged in an “egregious attempt to hide information” and, in a major blow to the industry, eventually forced the release of some 30 million pages of documents from industry files.
Philip Morris and the other companies subsequently settled the Minnesota case for $6 billion in 1998.
But with the industry facing other lawsuits around the country, Philip Morris turned to a committee it established to handle issues surrounding disclosure of other documents. In some instances, the committee sought to determine if certain documents had been improperly shielded under attorney-client privilege rule. But the committee also worked to protect other industry documents from being released, a practice that drew harsh criticism from lawyers and others who took on the industry.
Clifford Douglas, who served as a lawyer for the Congressional task force that looked into the tobacco industry’s practices, said, “The crime fraud committee was charged with preventing plaintiffs or the government from seeing sensitive documents that Philip Morris wanted to keep secret.”
Some of the nation’s most prominent tobacco lawyers from several prestigious law firms had seats on the committee, known as the Philip Morris Crime Fraud Issues Committee. And so did Ms. Gillibrand, who was already seen as a rising star among her colleagues at Davis Polk.
Mr. Chang, who worked with her at the firm, said it was telling that Ms. Gillibrand would be assigned to the panel along with “the linchpins of the tobacco defense bar in the entire country.”
“That’s certainly an indicator of the kind of respect that she was accorded at Davis Polk that they would choose her — a relatively junior associate — to be on a panel with some of the most prominent senior tobacco lawyers in the country,” he said.
Leslie Wharton, a senior counsel at the Washington law firm of Arnold Porter L.L.P. and a member of the crime fraud committee, said that although Ms. Gillibrand had less experience and stature than other lawyers on the panel, she was assertive, deeply involved and very effective in advocating on behalf of Philip Morris.
“She did more than pull her own weight,” Ms. Wharton said. “We handled highly specialized issues on a whole variety of cases, and she was a full partner in everything we did. She worked as hard as anyone and was a very capable, smart lawyer.”
Much of the committee’s work remains sealed, but internal documents indicate that the committee had wide latitude and “should be consulted with respect to just about any privilege issue that might arise in any case.”
A Philip Morris spokesman declined to discuss the committee or when it was formed.
Helping With Strategy
At Davis Polk, lawyers not only represented Philip Morris in litigation, they advised the company on business strategy, including how to protect the image of the cigarette company and how to deal with concerns about the effects of its products. This approach reflects, in part, the longstanding closeness between the firm and tobacco makers. But it also raised concerns among critics that the lawyers had crossed a line, and were essentially becoming agents in the business operation.
There were instances, for example, when Ms. Gillibrand was called upon to help the company deal with mounting public unease about its product and practices, according to interviews and a review of industry documents. Ms. Gillibrand was also schooled in some of the chemistry of cigarettes.
In 1998, for example, Roger G. Whidden, Philip Morris’s vice president for worldwide regulatory affairs, wrote Ms. Gillibrand a letter along with a draft document containing proposed responses to possible questions from reporters about nitrosamines, a cancer-causing agent in cigarettes.
In the letter, Mr. Whidden tells Ms. Gillibrand that the draft was prepared “on the basis of conversations” with her and others at Philip Morris, and asks her to review it. The suggested answers state that Philip Morris is working to reduce the presence of the deadly agent in cigarette smoke.
But the document also makes an assertion that experts say is highly misleading. The document declares flatly that the amount of nitrosamines in cigarette smoke had been reduced through filtration. That assertion was not in keeping with what was known about limitations of certain cigarette filters at the time, the experts say: smokers frequently compensated for them by inhaling more deeply, plugging up filter ventilation holes with their fingers or lips or taking more puffs.
The tobacco companies had been aware of this flaw in the filters for decades, according to industry documents and interviews, and Ms Gillibrand had just weeks before been briefed on their shortcomings and had taken a tour of the filtration section of Philip Morris’s production plant, according to company documents.
The presentation was given by Bill Dwyer, a scientist in the company’s research and development division, who described, among other things, how plugging the ventilation holes of filters diminishes the effectiveness of the filters.
Source: Nytimes