NAAG Convenes Fifth Tobacco Triennial Conference

William Lieblich, NAAG Tobacco Deputy Chief Counsel

Bill Lieblich, Tobacco Deputy Chief Counsel

NAAG convened its Fifth Triennial Conference on Oct. 8 in Madison, Wis., held pursuant to the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). Section VIII (a) (2) of the MSA provides that “NAAG will convene . . . one major national conference every three years for the Attorneys General of the Settling States, the directors of the [American Legacy] Foundation” and representatives of the tobacco companies that are parties to the MSA (“Participating Manufacturers”), and that the conference’s purpose “is to evaluate the success of this Agreement and coordinate efforts by the Attorneys General and the Participating Manufacturers to continue to reduce Youth smoking.”

Previous Triennial Conferences were held in 2001 in Overland Park, Kan.; in 2004 in Burlington, Vt.; in 2007 in Seattle, Wash.; and in 2010 in Memphis, Tenn. This year’s conference was hosted by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, who serve as NAAG Tobacco Committee co-chairs. Also present were state health department and tobacco control officials; representatives of federal agencies; representatives of other organizations involved in public health and tobacco control, including the American Legacy Foundation; and representatives of the Participating Manufacturers.

Attorney General Jackley opened the conference and greeted attendees. He noted that the MSA is first and foremost a public health document that aims to reduce youth smoking in several ways, and described the success of the MSA in contributing to significant reductions in teen smoking rates as well as in overall cigarette consumption in the United States. These reductions will translate to substantial savings in the states’ smoking-related health care expenditures in future years.

Mitchell Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was scheduled to be the conference’s featured speaker but was unable to attend because of the federal government shutdown. Mr. Zeller sent NAAG and conference attendees a letter expressing his regret at not being able to attend and describing the priorities of the CTP, which include addressing the questions of menthol in cigarettes and issuing a proposed rule asserting jurisdiction over tobacco products not currently regulated by the FDA. Mr. Zeller’s letter also described areas in which the FDA and attorneys general could work together to accomplish the common goals of the MSA and the federal legislation granting the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products.

Mike Moore, former Mississippi attorney general and a leader in the litigation against the major tobacco companies that gave rise to the MSA, presented an award to Cheryl Healton, DrPH, who was serving her final days as Legacy’s president and chief executive officer. The presentation was in recognition of her contributions to tobacco control during her 13-year tenure. Dr. Healton then gave a presentation describing Legacy’s activities and impact on reducing youth smoking, and outlining future challenges for tobacco control posed by new products being brought on the market, depictions of smoking in movies, and the tobacco industry’s continuing substantial marketing efforts.

Maggie Mahoney, deputy director of the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, then updated attendees on the status of litigation challenging state and local tobacco control laws and regulations based on the assertion of First Amendment rights and on claims of preemption under the Tobacco Control Act and the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (FCLAA). She described the growing consensus of courts that the Tobacco Control Act’s preemption provision and the Act’s amendment to the FCLAA preemption provision allow broad scope for states and localities to adopt laws and regulations that regulate such matters as the advertising, promotion, and sale of tobacco products.

Another scheduled presenter, Terry Pechacek, PhD, deputy director for research translation, Office on Smoking and Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was also unable to attend because of the federal government shutdown. In Dr. Pechacek’s stead, David Abrams, PhD, executive director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at Legacy, delivered a presentation on “Tobacco: Patterns of use in youth and young adults.”

The subject of youth use of tobacco products other than cigarettes was discussed by a panel of experts who approached the subject from a variety of directions. Mark Greenwold, senior consultant to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, described the products in question, their impact on public health, and the tobacco control challenges they pose. Kurt M. Ribisl, professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health, described how the products are being marketed, and Dawn S. Berkowitz, director of the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, described measures that Maryland has taken to reduce youth use of cigars.

Finally, Dr. Abrams provided participants with a perspective on the new phenomenon of electronic cigarettes, including the current state of the science on electronic cigarettes and the policy and research issues they present for future study.

The next conference will be held in 2016.

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