Star Scientific Files First Quarter Financial Report

Net sales for first quarter 2009, which totaled $.15 million, were essentially unchanged compared with fourth quarter 2008 net sales of $.15 million. The company believes that sales of the company’s dissolvable smokeless tobacco products, Ariva and Stonewall, were adversely impacted by an increase in the Federal Excise tax on tobacco products contained in the SCHIP legislation, which became effective April 1. Wholesale and retail operations were reluctant to maintain inventory on hand beginning in late February, in an effort to minimize taxable inventory as of the April 1 effective date. Early second quarter sales data appear to indicate that dissolvable tobacco sales have rebounded as wholesale and retail inventories are being restocked. Star Scientific had a net loss of $5.2 million for first quarter 2009 compared with a $5.5 million loss for first quarter 2008.
The company also announced that the jury trial in its patent infringement lawsuit against RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) will commence with jury selection on Monday, May 18. The trial will be held in US District Court, West Lombard Street in Baltimore, MD, and Star anticipates that the jury trial will last approximately three weeks.
This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Star Scientific, Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries (collectively, the “Company”) has tried, whenever possible, to identify these forward-looking statements using words such as “anticipates”, “believes”, “estimates”, “expects”, “plans”, “intends” and similar expressions. These statements reflect the Company’s current beliefs and are based upon information currently available to it. Accordingly, such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which could cause the Company’s actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, such statements. These risks, uncertainties and contingencies include, without limitation, the challenges inherent in new product development initiatives, the uncertainties inherent in the progress of scientific research, the Company’s ability to raise additional capital in the future necessary to maintain its business, potential disputes concerning the Company’s intellectual property, risks associated with litigation regarding such intellectual property, potential delays in obtaining any necessary government approvals of the Company’s low-TSNA tobacco products, market acceptance of the Company’s new smokeless tobacco products, competition from companies with greater resources than the Company, the Company’s decision not to join the Master Settlement Agreement (“MSA”), the effect of state statutes adopted under the MSA, and the Company’s dependence on key employees and on its strategic relationships with Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation in light of its combination with RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, Inc. The impact of potential litigation, if initiated against or by individual states that have adopted the MSA, could be materially adverse to the Company.
Although the Company believes the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, it can give no assurance that the expectations will be attained or that any deviation will not be material. See additional discussion under “Risk Factors” in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2008, as filed with the SEC on March 16, 2009, and other factors detailed from time to time in the Company’s other filings with the SEC. The Company undertakes no obligation to update or advise upon any such forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this press release or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.
© Copyright: News.prnewswire

Fight Against Tobacco Consumption in Zambia Stepped Up

THE Tobacco Free Association of Zambia (TOFAZ) has resorted to the use of performing arts in its campaign to discourage the cultivation and consumption of tobacco.
TOFAZ executive director Brenda Chitindi said during a tobacco control workshop in Lusaka yesterday that the organisation intended to use all effective means to free the nation from tobacco.
Ms Chitindi said the organisation wanted to sensitise the tobacco consumers through the use of drama groups to get the message across.
She said using artistic means to sensitise the nation would be the easiest way of delivering the message to the nation.
She said most of the youth lacked knowledge on the dangers of consuming tobacco and needed to be sensitised.
Ms Chitindi said so far the Government had spent more money on sending people abroad for treatment instead of using that money for other economic issues.
She said her organisation would no longer sit down and watch things go wrong as people suffer because of tobacco consumption.
She said her group also intended to reach out to the tobacco farmers to stop growing tobacco and instead grow other crops that would be of benefit to the nation.
“We want to reach out to the nation to stop growing tobacco in Zambia and grow something that will not contribute to harming the people of Zambia,” she said.
Ms Chitindi expressed happiness at the Government for agreeing to support the tobacco control programme.
She said the programme would be funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Meanwhile, Institute of Economic and Social Research researcher Richard Zulu said that there was need to implement the World Health Organisation framework convention on tobacco control.
He said the research institute would help in conducting research in various communities and share the fundings with the general public.
© Copyright: Allafrica

CIG WAR BURNS OUT

Despite its having been touted as a way to close budget gaps, city and state officials have backed off plans to crack down on the $1.6 billion black market for cigarettes.
The sole city unit targeting illegal tobacco full time has been reassigned, and a new law aimed at Indian reservations — the prime source of the butts — hasn’t been enforced.
A city squad formed in 2007 to sting stores selling unstamped, untaxed cigarettes — which cost the city $195 million in lost tax revenue a year — has been reassigned by the Finance Department, The Post has learned.
The six officers — who seized 554 cartons of illegal cigarettes during 622 retail inspections in 2008, issuing $200,000 in fines — will be shifted to other law-enforcement units, according to their union.
“We were totally shocked,” said one member of the Criminal Investigations Bureau of the city Sheriff’s Office. “We are highly trained and highly specialized. It makes no sense.”
The officers will be reassigned to the sheriff’s law-enforcement bureau, whose duties will be expanded to include illegal cigarettes. That will increase the total number of officers targeting butts to 59, improving enforcement, said Finance spokesman Owen Stone.
But Deputy Sheriffs’ Association head James Davis III said, “They can’t possibly keep up the same level of enforcement.”
The switch was one of the last moves made by Finance Commissioner Martha Stark, who resigned on April 28 after a city probe, sparked by a Post exposé, found that she had hired relatives and was dating an ex-subordinate.
Meanwhile, a law signed by Gov. Paterson in December was supposed to make enforcement on reservations easier but has been deemed unenforceable by courts.
Before it passed, Mayor Bloomberg urged the state to act and said it “could go a long ways in closing our budget gap.”
Rulings require the state to hand out coupons to the reservations so that residents can exchange them for tax-free cigarettes.
“The state has not handed out the coupons,” said city lawyer Eric Proshansky. “The law cannot be enforced unless those coupons are distributed.”

Nicotine may prevent bioterrorism damage

British scientists say they’ve determined nicotine can delay the effects of ricin used during a bioterrorism attack.
Jon Mabley and his colleagues at the University of Brighton found nicotine works to block the tissue-destroying effects of ricin — a highly toxic compound derived from castor beans. The study was conducted in laboratory models, but the scientists said nicotine agonists could potentially be used in patients exposed to ricin as a stopgap measure before other treatments take effect.
The British investigators studied the effect of nicotine on animals exposed to ricin and found it reduced death and organ failure.
“The protective effect of nicotine appears to be associated with its anti-inflammatory effect, suggesting a possible therapeutic strategy of activating the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway following ricin exposure to protect against multiple organ failure,” the scientists said. “The overall effect of nicotine on maintaining liver and kidney function, while reducing systemic inflammation, may account for the reduced mortality observed with ricin exposure.”
Activation of the anti-inflammatory cholinergic pathway is now undergoing testing to reduce inflammation in a wide range of diseases.
The study appears in the journal Molecular Medicine.
© Copyright: Upi

Ban everything? What is next?

Nolan points that banning something legal is a recipe for disaster.
“What is next? Do we ban the use of trans fats from restaurants? They are a contributor to obesity and other harmful illnesses. Maybe they will have to ban farming, since that is very harmful to employees (according to a 2008 Penn State University study ‘agriculture is consistently among the most hazardous occupations in the United States.’) and you could keep adding to that list,” said Nolan. “What about mining? There is evidence that supports that mining is hazardous to the workers health and we are not talking about banning mining.”
But Nolan and others who are opposed to a 100 percent ban also see the state’s dependency on tobacco tax revenue being another challenge to the passage of an all-out ban without exemptions.
Currently, Michigan residents pay a $2 Michigan tax on every pack of cigarettes and 32 percent tax on other tobacco products, generating $1.1 billion in revenue for the state.
“The tobacco industry contributes millions to the state annually and a complete ban without exemptions will greatly impact Michigan’s budget,” said Nolan. “I think we are close to a smoking ban, but unless there are exemptions it is going to be tough. With a state hurting financially legislators I have spoke to have said the smoking ban is not a priority at this time.”
FIVE PROPOSALS
Currently, there are five “smoking ban” proposals in the House of Representatives and two in the State Senate. They range from a 100 percenter ban with no exemptions to “compromise” bills that would allow for exemptions for cigar bars and tobacco specialty stores and casinos.
Nolan also sees a special permit for charities to obtain a possible exemption. These permits would be for “fundraising” through “cigar dinners,” for example. He co-chairs the annual Father Fred Foundation Cigar Dinner (May 14) that now accounts for 25 percent of the foundation’s annual operation budget. Ironically, one of the many programs and services offered by the foundation is a smoking cessation class coordinated by Lisa Danto.
“To my disappointment, they’re not going to stop doing the annual cigar dinner because they raise a lot of money from it,” said Danto. “I wish there was another way for them to raise that kind of money. I hear that the food is exceptional (several of the top chefs from the region prepare the dinner) and myself and others would love to attend, but we can’t because of the smoke.”
Danto also says that she and others are not opposed to some exemptions. They realize that a 100 percent ban on smoking is not a reality. They feel that exemptions have to be spelled out clearly, and she is concerned about some exemptions.
SHARED AIR
“When you propose allowing smoking at licensed tobacco shops and those businesses share a building with others, then you are talking about a problem as they share the same ventilation and air system. Plus, you go back to the health issues of the employees,” said Danto. “Also, the definition of a cigar bar doesn’t really exist in Michigan. There are a lot of places that allow cigar smoking; does that make them a cigar bar?”
Mike Nolan counters that argument.
“All of the pieces of legislation that I have read that provide for exemptions, including cigar bars, clearly define the criteria for a cigar bar. Based on those definitions that primarily deal with percentage of sales, there is not an establishment in Northern Michigan that would qualify as a cigar bar,” said Nolan. “Ultimately the Public Health Department would be charged with interpreting and enforcing any exemptions of the legislation that is passed. That goes for tobacco stores like mine having the ability to allow for our customers to be able to ‘sample’ the product in the store as is accustom in this industry.”
Nolan believes there is an outside possibility that some type of ban could pass in the current session. However Danto is less optimistic.
“We have been close before with the Senate passing an outright smoking ban only for it to stall in committee in the House,” said Danto. “Two weeks ago I went to a regulatory reform meeting in Lansing where the legislative committee had the smoking ban on the agenda and after brief discussion they decided to table it. So I have my doubts for this session, but I remain hopeful.”
ON THE BALLOT?
While the smoking ban remains in a legislative-lobbying quagmire, there is now a movement to place it on the ballot in 2010 for Michigan voters to decide.
In the meantime, Mike Nolan will play host to 300-plus this Thursday for the 14th Annual Father Fred Foundation Cigar Dinner, while Lisa Danto will be participating on the same day in a public hearing to discuss the proposed Benzie-Leelanau Clean Indoor Air Regulation that would ban smoking in public and private worksites and public places, excluding bars and restaurants.
“I will continue to work towards encouraging restaurants and bars to voluntarily ban smoking,” said Danto. “For example Lil’ Bo’s (a bar/restaurant in Traverse City) just went 100 percent smoke-free. A big step for them, and they are being rewarded by a clientele who would not go in there before because of the smoking. Mode’s is another great example. They banned smoking because they had an employee battling breast cancer and they decided it was wrong for her to have smoke blown in her face while she was working.”
To learn more about the various programs offered by the Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition and the upcoming public hearing for Benzie-Leelanau County on May 14, call Lisa Danto at 231-271-3684. For a complete list of restaurants and bars throughout Northern Michigan that are smoke free check out smokefreemichigan.org/restaurants.
For those interested in attending the 14th Annual Father Fred Foundation Cigar Dinner on May 14 at the Williamsburg Dinner Theater,
call Mike Nolan at 231-946-2640.
The Michigan Legislature is currently considering seven anti-smoking bills, including five in the House and two in the Senate. The following information was compiled by The Daily News of Montcalm County:
• HB 4099 – Proposes a complete ban with no exemptions. The bill also has a nonretaliation clause which prohibits the punishment of anyone (employee/customer) who reports a business where smoking is taking place.
• HB 4196 – Offers exemptions for cigar bars and tobacco specialty retail stores.
• HB 4341 – Proposes a complete ban, a nonretaliation clause, and provides for local anti-smoking ordinances.
• HB 4377 – Would allow smoking exemptions for casinos, cigar bars and tobacco stores. Smoking would be allowed in casinos on the gambling floor.
• HB 4752 – Proposes a complete ban with no exemptions and includes a non-retaliation clause. This legislation would only take effect 30 days after the governor renegotiates casino agreements with Indian tribes to end smoking in casinos.
• SB 0079 – Proposes a complete ban with no exemptions.
• SB 0114 – Proposes a complete ban with no exemptions, including a nonretaliation clause for reporting a business.

Tobacco firms' 40 lobbyists put popular proposals at risk

Where there’s smoke, there’s hires. In this year’s legislative session, tobacco interests have retained 40 lobbyists – including seven former lawmakers – to influence proposals to limit cigarettes and change taxes on smokeless tobacco.
So far, with three weeks left in the session, the lobbyists have registered successes, derailing two proposals that enjoyed widespread legislative support – a statewide smoking ban in public places and a new formula for taxes on chew.
Both major pieces of legislation now are in serious need of oxygen, a demonstration of how lobbying power can hold up even bills that have strong backing from lawmakers and voters.
The statewide smoking ban, after winning hard-won support from the state’s restaurant association, just emerged Friday from the House State Affairs Committee.
But it’s a watered-down version that exempts 226 of the state’s 254 counties, limits enforcement and carves out loopholes for many bars.
Because 28 cities in the state – including Dallas, Houston and El Paso – already have smoking bans, the revised bill would change very little.
The exceptions now built into the bill “will destroy the intent of the legislation – to provide strong, comprehensive protections from dangerous secondhand smoke exposure for all Texans,” said Kirsten Voinis, spokeswoman for Smoke-Free Texas.
The bill was defanged despite the fact that more than half the House members are listed as co-authors.
In the Senate, the stronger version of the bill has languished for weeks, even though its author, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said that a majority on the governing committee backs it, along with two-thirds of the full Senate.
The committee’s chairwoman, Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has said things will “shake free” in the near future. She stood with cyclist Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, in support of the bill two months ago.

Rights questions

But some Republicans have raised serious concerns about private property rights in opposing the bill, Ellis said.
“But it’s clearly tobacco. Big tobacco. And they are shrewd enough to hide behind issues of personal liberty, or whatever works,” he said.
Tobacco lobbyists and others said they are being targeted unfairly. Some lawmakers have genuine misgivings about sweeping legislation that allows the state to control the premises of businesses and private property, they said.
Voinis acknowledged that cigar bar owners and vending machine companies have waded heavily into the battle.
Robert Johnson Jr., a lobbyist for Reynolds American Inc., parent of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Tax change

The second measure hobbling through the session would change the way smokeless tobacco is taxed and apply the money for incentives to have young doctors practice medicine in underserved areas.
Currently, smokeless tobacco is taxed by its retail price. A bill by Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, would tax it based on weight per unit, as most states do. By 2011, it’s estimated that the revamped tax would raise about $9 million that would be used to pay down the student loans of 450 doctors in exchange for them working in parts of the state that have a dire shortage of health professionals.
“We need 4,000 doctors out there right now,” Chisum said. “If we don’t start helping them repay their huge college loans, we’ll never satisfy that need. And instead, all these sick people end up going to the big cities and using their emergency rooms.”
The issue has makers of lower-priced brands of snuff fighting more expensive products.
The measure was bottled up for weeks in the House committee that sets bills on the agenda for consideration. Chisum has used some clever parliamentary maneuvers to tack the proposal onto someone else’s bill. But it’s unclear whether his hoop-jumping will work.
Fighting on either side of the cause are Reggie Bashur, a former adviser to two governors; Mindy Ellmer, the girlfriend of a key lawmaker in the fight; John Pitts, the brother of the powerful House chairman who leads the budget-writing process; Walter Fisher, a former Senate parliamentarian; and the seven former lawmakers.
“They argue this is a fight between ‘big tobacco’ and ‘little tobacco,’ but there is no such thing as little tobacco,” said Tom Banning, a lobbyist for the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, one of the groups pushing for Chisum’s bill. One of the discount tobacco firms fighting the new tax method is a Reynolds unit, Banning said.
“It points to the political strength of the tobacco industry that this bill has been stuck,” he said.
Tobacco lobbyists and others disagreed. They said lawmakers are reluctant to jump into a turf fight between smokeless tobacco interests, as are some health care groups, such as the Texas Medical Association, the major doctors’ group. It has stayed neutral.

How votes are driven

Rep. Allan Ritter, D-Nederland, who sits on the agenda-setting Calendars Committee, said he opposes the bill because “it’s a market share fight” sure to sock it to snuff dippers on tight budgets.
Former Rep. Robby Cook, D-Eagle Lake, now a Reynolds lobbyist, said steering doctors to inner city and rural areas is “a good cause,” but lawmakers “need to fund it properly.”
House Administration Committee Chairman Charlie Geren, a big player in the fight, dates Ellmer, a lobbyist for Swedish Match, which makes discount brands Timberwolf and Longhorn. Weeks ago, Geren “tagged” Chisum’s bill in Calendars, to delay it. On Friday, he led efforts on the floor to block Chisum’s move to attach his bill to another.
Geren, R-Fort Worth, said he didn’t try to kill the bill because of his relationship with Ellmer. He said he has opposed a weight-based snuff tax for three sessions.
“I’m friends with a whole bunch of lobbyists,” he said. “It doesn’t make any difference to me who the lobbyists are. … You just decide which way to go, and that’s the way you go.”
District considerations and conscience, not relationships, drive his votes, Geren said. And he noted that Chisum’s chief of staff is Cristen Wohlgemuth, daughter of former Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, who lobbies for a group of health clinics backing Chisum’s bill.
Chisum said he grew interested in doctor shortages long before he hired Wohlgemuth’s daughter.
“Her being there is incidental,” he said. “To put docs in rural areas is my purpose.”
© Copyright: Dallasnews

Philippines Effort to Cut Smoking Goes up in Smoke

The campaign against smoking, which kills close to 90,000 people a year in the Philippines – on a par with the number of deaths in natural disasters or conflicts – is becoming a losing battle.
“My friends look so cool smoking,” Arnold Santos of Mandaluyong City said, who took up the habit out of peer pressure. “Now, I smoke 10 cigarettes a day,” the 17-year-old, who has no plans of quitting just yet, said.
Despite the passage of the Tobacco Control Act, more Filipino youths are now smoking, “indicating that the law has not been effective”, Maricar Limpin, executive director of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP), said.
The 2003 act sets both the guidelines for and regulation of the packaging, sale, distribution and advertisements of tobacco products.
Among others, it mandates the printing of warnings in either English or Filipino of the harmful effects of smoking.
Yet a recent global youth tobacco survey showed that smoking prevalence among Filipino youth had jumped from 15 percent in 2003 to 21.6 percent in 2007.
“We are losing the war against smoking,” Limpin conceded.
At least 240 Filipinos die each day – 87,600 a year – from smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, cardiac arrest, stroke and other chronic-obstructive lung failures, the health department reported.
These figures are based on the 2005-2006 Tobacco and Poverty Study in the Philippines conducted by the College of Public Health of the University of the Philippines, National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The figures are higher than Malaysia and Vietnam, where 10,000 and 40,000 people respectively die each year from smoking-related diseases, but lower than Indonesia, where 400,000 people die annually.
Graphic warnings
Since 2007, separate bills have been pending with lawmakers to introduce the printing of graphic health warnings.
An FCAP survey on 10,000 Filipino youths revealed they were more receptive to graphic warnings than text warnings.
Limpin said the survey showed that the graphic design had a better ability to convey the health risks related to smoking and some said it stopped them from buying cigarettes.
While the visual warning has little effect on long-time smokers, preventing young people from taking up the habit would deny tobacco companies a new market, Limpin said.
“The industry knows that the introduction of graphic warnings threatens its future market,” Limpin said.
In the Senate, the bill is now being discussed in the plenary. But in the House, composed of district and party list representatives from all 78 provinces, the bill has not passed the committee level because of opposition from legislators.
“It is being blocked because of fears it could kill the tobacco industry,” Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza, main author of the anti-smoking bill, said.
According to the National Tobacco Authority, more than 57,000 farmers are engaged in tobacco farming.
La Union Rep. Victor Francisco said the main flaw of the bill was that it would raise the prices of local tobacco products compared with imports.
To compete, local manufacturers would have no choice but to increase their prices because of the additional cost, he said.
In addition, the bill failed to factor in the repercussions on local livelihoods; almost two million people depend on the tobacco industry.
“Our tobacco farmers, especially in the north, cannot easily shift to other crops because the soil is not compatible with other produce,” Francisco said.
The WHO’s Tobacco Framework Convention on Tobacco, to which the Philippines is a signatory, recommends the use of effective campaigns against tobacco consumption. Article 11 requires that state signatories adopt effective measures by September 2008, but the Philippines missed the deadline.
© Copyright: Thecuttingedgenews

Chances Bright for Legislation Seeking FDA Regulation of Tobacco

After 15 years of debate, tens of millions spent on lobbying and a roller-coaster legislative history, public health advocates say they believe Congress is finally ready to regulate tobacco — and their opponents privately agree.
This week, a Senate committee will take up its version of a bill that passed the House by a comfortable margin last month. Supporters say they have more than the 60 votes needed to make the legislation filibuster-proof when it reaches the Senate floor sometime after Memorial Day.
The sponsors, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), with help from party leaders, have pushed the legislation onto a fast track. And President Obama, himself a smoker who has struggled to quit, has said he intends to sign the bill — a reversal from President George W. Bush, who sought to kill it.
The legislation would give the Food and Drug Administration broad powers over the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco, a product used by 20 percent of Americans yet largely unregulated.
The very idea of tobacco regulation strikes some as nonsensical: Take a product that, if used as directed, will kill a third of those who use it and place it under the control of an agency charged with protecting public health. But advocates say FDA oversight is the best hope for reducing the 400,000 deaths each year from tobacco use.
“If this happens, and if the FDA uses its powers, it will be an enormous public health achievement,” said Matthew L. Meyers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who has been pushing the legislation for 15 years.
For the first time, the $89 billion tobacco industry would have to disclose the ingredients in its products. Under the measure, the FDA could ban the most harmful of the estimated 6,000 chemicals used in cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products. And it could reduce the amount of nicotine, perhaps to a point where tobacco is no longer addictive and smokers who want to quit can break free more easily. The bill stops short of allowing the FDA to ban tobacco or reduce the amount of nicotine to zero.
The legislation would require tobacco companies to expand the size of warning labels from 30 percent to 50 percent of the package. The Senate bill mandates that graphic images of the health effects of tobacco consumption be included.
Advertising and promotion would be restricted. Tobacco manufacturers would be unable to use the terms “light,” “mild” and “low” unless they can scientifically prove that the product so labeled is less harmful than standard tobacco. The bill would also create a tobacco center within the FDA funded by fees from the industry that are estimated to reach more than $500 million annually by 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The FDA first tried to regulate tobacco in the 1990s, but the industry battled it to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5 to 4 in 2000 that the agency had exceeded its statutory authority. It called on Congress to amend the law.
But during that legal battle, the political climate surrounding the issue shifted rapidly enough that by the time the Supreme Court rendered its decision, a curious thing had happened: Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro and the largest tobacco company in the country, said it would accept some government oversight.
At the time, Philip Morris executives were charting a strategy to improve the company’s image and regain the social acceptance it had lost in the 1990s as congressional hearings, court cases and suits by state attorneys general unearthed evidence that tobacco companies lied to the public about the addictive nature of nicotine. In late 2001, Philip Morris changed its name to the Altria Group; executives said they wanted to craft a new image untainted by cigarettes. They also embraced federal oversight as a way to convince the public that Altria was socially responsible, according to internal company documents.
William Phelps, a spokesman for Altria, said the company thinks FDA approval will help Altria market new products that are less dangerous to the health. Altria recently acquired U.S. Smokeless Tobacco; is testing “snus,” a new line of “spit-free” smokeless tobacco products; and recently opened a $350 million research facility in Richmond to develop products that pose lower health risks.
Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, the top Republican on the committee that will discuss the bill, said he wants to see some kind of legislation on tobacco but is opposed to the Kennedy measure. “It makes me leery when a tobacco company is backing this,” he said. “Nothing changes in it without Philip Morris’s approval.”
Some public health professionals are also skeptical.
“I’m a little suspicious of anything that Philip Morris supports,” said Richard Hurt, a doctor who directs the nicotine-dependence program at the Mayo Clinic. “I haven’t known Philip Morris to do anything in the interest of public health.”
Altria’s competitors also oppose the bill. They say Altria is backing it because restrictions on marketing tend to freeze market shares, which would lock Philip Morris into the top spot.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), whose state is home to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Lorillard Tobacco, has threatened to filibuster the Kennedy bill. He and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) have proposed an alternative bill that would promote “reduced risk” tobacco products instead of restricting cigarettes.
David J. Adelman, a tobacco analyst for Morgan Stanley, said FDA regulation was not likely to hurt the industry’s overall profits, unless the agency demands so many changes in tobacco products that consumers no longer want to smoke them. He said the bill could squeeze out small companies because they are less able to afford the process involved to get a new product approved for the market.
Lobbying activity surrounding the bill is intense. In the first quarter of 2009, Altria spent $4.29 million to make its case regarding this bill and a couple of other pieces of tobacco legislation, according to federal lobbying records. Its chief rival, Reynolds American, owner of R.J. Reynolds, spent $1.59 million in that period. Lorillard, the third-largest tobacco maker, paid lobbyists $850,000 in the first three months, records show. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, meanwhile, spent $157,000 during that period.
“I think a lot of people want to get something on the books to begin the process of regulation,” said Hurt of the Mayo Clinic. “The tobacco companies are still wildly successful. They still have 43 million smokers, and they’re not going to give them up easily. Only time will tell whether this is a mistake or the beginning of reducing the tobacco toll in this country.”
© Copyright: Washingtonpost