Inaugural Sorrell Lecture on Tobacco Policy and Enforcement Given

The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) and the American Legacy Foundation® were proud to kick off the William H. Sorrell Lecture Series on Tobacco Policy and Enforcement June 17 during the 2009 NAAG Summer Meeting in Colorado Springs. Steven A. Schroeder, M.D., professor of medicine at University of California San Francisco and former president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, delivered the inaugural Sorrell lecture to the Attorneys General, their staff and other meeting attendees. The series is funded by Legacy in honor of Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell who served as chair of Legacy’s Board.

Dr. Schroeder, a founding Legacy Board member and former chair, focused on the public health implications of the landmark Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) which was reached between the Attorneys General and the tobacco companies more than a decade ago. He described the MSA as an unprecedented opportunity for the public health and legal communities to work together to combat the growing tobacco epidemic. His speech set out seven concrete steps the Attorneys General can take to make a difference in the fight against tobacco.

Remarks by Dr. Schroeder:

  1. Become an active voice in your state. Highlight the disparity between the torrent of dollars that flow into states because of smoking and the meager trickle of resources used for tobacco control.
  2. Continue to watch the industry. Continue to be vigilant and actively enforce the MSA’s prohibitions against predatory marketing practices. Even with the new Food and Drug Administration legislation, there continues to be a very important role for the states.
  3. Continue to Fight Smoking in Movies. Despite the major decline in population smoking, movie characters continue to smoke at much higher rates. The evidence is clear that movie smoking is a powerful inducement for young people to smoke. The Attorneys General have already been active in this area, but there is much more to be done. Please advocate for the R rating for movies that feature actors who smoke and keep smoking out of films marketed to and seen by our nation’s youth.
  4. Ensure No State Agency Takes Tobacco Money. Actively take the position that no state agency, no state university, no public school system, no police department, life skills training or substance abuse program will take anything from the tobacco industry.
  5. Serve on Legacy’s Board. Continue the history of sending strong representation from Attorneys General of both parties to the governing board of the American Legacy Foundation.
  6. Be Vigilant About Emerging Products. One product currently gaining popularity is the electronic cigarette. Unless and until its safety and effectiveness is established, e-cigarettes should not be on the market. The Attorneys General are in a unique position to protect the public, both through the MSA and state consumer protection laws.
  7. Advocate for What Works. The Attorneys General can accelerate the decline in tobacco use by advocating for interventions that we already know work:
    • Excise tax increases to raise the price of cigarettes
    • Clean indoor air initiatives
    • Effective counter-marketing programs for youth and smoking cessation for adults
    • Safeguarding state funds for tobacco control programs such as the toll-free telephone quitlines
    • Continuing to address the issue of smoking in the movies
    • Encouraging the medical system to do a better job in helping smokers quit.

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Steven Schroeder, MD, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, Ellen Vargyas of the Legacy Foundation and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.
Steven Schroeder, MD, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, Ellen Vargyas of the Legacy Foundation and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.