The following articles from April, 1999 are very good references for actions taken in Massachusetts by Black leaders to attempt to obtain some tobacco settlement funds for tobacco control and health programs for the Black community. For more information on what has happened in Massachusetts since April, go to TCSG's State Tobacco Settlement Updates web page.

Blacks eyeing tobacco payout Panelists cite high illness rate

By Zachary R. Dowdy, Boston Globe Staff, 04/13/99

As the ethnic group considered hardest hit by tobacco firm advertising - and by deadly diseases from their wares - African-Americans should be chief beneficiaries of a $206 billion settlement against cigarette makers, speakers said at a symposium yesterday.

The event, an afternoon conference at Roxbury Community College, drew about 1,000 educators, residents, and lawmakers to speeches by US Surgeon General David Satcher, state legislators, state Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, and panelists.

Nearly all said that key targets of tobacco firms have been blacks. No one disagreed when speakers listed the grim facts showing that blacks contract smoking-related diseases and die at high rates, and that black teenagers are showing the fastest increase in a preference for smoking.

But the timing of the Roxbury symposium coincides with a larger debate on Beacon Hill over how to distribute the $7.6 billion expected to begin pouring into Massachusetts next year at the rate of hundreds of millions per year for 25 years.

The money represents Massachusetts' portion of a settlement reached in a lawsuit against tobacco firms. The suit was filed by 46 states to recover Medicaid funds spent for the care of people stricken with smoking-related illnesses.

With its focus on the plight of black people who smoke, the conference was a three-hour argument for funneling the funds toward African-American smokers and the children influenced by tobacco advertising in black communities.

"There have been plans to put the money to other uses, and we need to make sure that it is appropriated correctly,'' said state Senator Dianne Wilkerson, a Democrat from Boston. ''This is a major issue. This is going to be a fight.''

Other legislators are less sure. Distribution formulas have included proposals ranging from using the money to subsidize prescription drugs for the underinsured elderly to repairing roads and building prisons.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran yesterday announced a plan to establish a trust fund with the money to perpetually pay for health care and smoking-cessation programs. But he did not say some tobacco funds should be spent directly on programs for lowering smoking rates among minorities.

Senate Ways and Means Committee chairman Mark C. Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat, said that he is undecided on how the money should be given out, but that the decision must be made with input from tobacco control and health care professionals.

''There's no consensus on exactly where to put it,'' he said, adding that the funds should be limited to public health and antitobacco campaigns.

He said he disagrees with a trust fund proposal that would delay action by the Legislature while more smokers get sick.

The symposium's sponsors, though, seek a formula in disbursing the funds that factors in the suffering in black communities.

''There is no question that, in the past, tobacco companies have targeted minority communities,'' Satcher said, citing a report he released last year that listed health statistics on ethnic groups and smoking.

One member of the panel, Norman Black, an advertising executive who helped promote Newport cigarettes, a popular brand among African-Americans, said his company found in black smokers an untapped and profitable niche.

''Of course, we targeted blacks,'' he said.

Material from Tina Cassidy of the Globe Staff and the Associated Press was used in this report.

This story ran on page B03 of the Boston Globe on 04/13/99.


State tobacco money should go to minorities, advocates say

Associated Press Boston Herald Monday, April 12, 1999

BOSTON - As the state prepares to collect its share of a multibillion-dollar settlement with the tobacco industry, some local leaders are urging: Don't forget about the black community.

Black Americans have been targeted, some say, by cigarette makers - as evidenced by countless tobacco-touting billboards in minority neighborhoods and smoking ads in black-oriented magazines. And blacks suffer from a disproportionate number of smoking-related illnesses.

Therefore, say advocates, they should get their own piece of the settlement pie.

``There have been plans to put the money to other uses, and we need to make sure that it is appropriated correctly,'' said state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, D-Boston. ``This is a major issue. This is going to be a fight.''

Local politicians, community activists and health officials - including U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher - gathered Monday at Roxbury Community College to discuss tobacco, the settlement and its potential effect on blacks.

Over the next 25 years, Massachusetts expects to collect about $8 billion of the $205 billion tobacco companies are paying out to settle lawsuits seeking to recover the costs of treating smoking-related illness.

While suggestions in Massachusetts have ranged from giving the money to taxpayers to paying for prescription drugs for the elderly, advocates Monday said the state should use at least some of the settlement money for blacks.

One proposal includes using the money to educate kids in minority neighborhoods about the dangers of smoking.

``Community-based programs have been shortchanged,'' said the Rev. Hessie Harris, pastoral director of Churches Organized to Save Tomorrow. ``Some of the money needs to be generated into the minority communities so we can get the message out that smoking is unhealthy.''

More than 45,000 black Americans die each year from smoking-related illnesses, giving them a higher death rate due to lung cancer than any other race. Yet the group is a prime target for cigarette advertisers, Satcher said.

According to a review by the American Cancer Society, the leading advertisers in several black-oriented magazines are cigarette makers. Tobacco companies also have been accused of systematically targeting minorities with ads for menthol cigarettes.

Seven of 10 black smokers now choose menthol cigarettes, the society said.

``There is no question that in the past tobacco companies have targeted minority communities. Our research has shown that,'' Satcher said, adding that he also advocates using some of the settlement money for education.

``We have to remember why the settlement was given. The settlement is about health,'' he said. ``We ought to invest more funds in stopping the younger folks from starting smoking by educating them and stopping those older ones who already do.''

Meanwhile, lawmakers led by House Speaker Thomas Finneran on Monday proposed putting the state's tobacco settlement money into a trust fund.

The state is supposed to get $350 million by June 2000, but lawsuits over the tobacco settlement may delay payments to states.

The proposal would extend the life of the money, while preventing the state from spending money it doesn't yet have, the lawmakers said. Up to 15 percent of the principal would be used for health care and antitobacco efforts in the early years, beginning in 2001.

By the eighth year, lawmakers estimated, the state would only be spending interest earned from the principal.