Although the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) was a victory for anti-tobacco forces, it left Big Tobacco unvanquished, shifting the battleground to individual states like Connecticut. Since 1998, I have focused my efforts in Connecticut on the key goals of preventing youths from starting to smoke, protecting non-smokers from the dangers of secondhand smoke, and treating tobacco addiction. The obstacles to these goals are no less frustrating and dismaying than before the MSA, however, with progress impeded by the enormous political and economic power of Big Tobacco.
A major frustration has been Connecticut's failure to use the $3.6 billion tobacco settlement-with $500 million already paid to the state-to fight tobacco. Our intent in suing Big Tobacco and creating the settlement was to use Big Tobacco's own money to fight tobacco through outreach and education that would stop children from beginning to smoke and through cessation programs and other treatment for people of all ages who are addicted to nicotine. Connecticut is virtually last among states in using settlement money to advance vital public health goals. Furthermore, the average age that people in Connecticut begin smoking is eleven, with sixty more children starting to smoke every day.
Our fight against secondhand smoke dates back to at least 1993. In that year, the Connecticut legislature banned smoking in municipal and state-owned buildings, grocery stores, and hospitals. In spite of the compelling evidence regarding the dangers of secondhand smoke, the legislature attached a major limitation at the tobacco lobby's behest. Specifically, the legislature prohibited municipalities from regulating smoking in other public places, such as restaurants and bars. This preemption of local laws has been an obstacle to further progress against tobacco for almost ten years.
"Tobacco Control: A State Perspective,"
Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics: Vol. 3
, Article 11.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjhple/vol3/iss1/11