Lessons for Physicians About Health Policy Making
The issue of tobacco industry responsibility for population health problems and compensation for their treatment has been growing since the 1960s. In 1999, the state attorneys general collectively launched the largest class-action lawsuit in US history and sued the tobacco industry to recover the costs of caring for smokers. In what became known as the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), states were rewarded billions of dollars and won concessions regarding how cigarettes could be advertised and targeted to minors.
Ten years after this settlement, much is known about how MSA monies were distributed and how states have used the money. There is some understanding about how much of the money went toward offsetting the health-care costs attributable to smoking and whether resources were allocated to efforts to reduce smoking in a particular state. However, there are few data on what effect, if any, the MSA had on tobacco control locally and nationally.
This commentary explores these issues, as well as how the tobacco industry has evolved to offset the losses incurred by the settlement. Finally, an analysis of the complexities of current tobacco policy-making is provided so that physicians and other health-care advocacy groups can more completely understand the present-day political dynamics and be more effective in shaping tobacco control policy in the future.
Walter J. Jones, PhD and Gerard A. Silvestri, MD – American College of Chest Physicians – March 2010.