Anti-Tobacco Lawyers and All That Money

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There have been several reports lately about the odd, non-health-related projects that all that settlement money extracted from the tobacco companies went to, such as bridges, sprinkler systems, and even subsidies to tobacco farmers.

Some of the lawyers involved in suing the tobacco companies claimed they were interested not just in money but in helping to boost the health of the public. So, after the dust from the legal battles had settled, ACSH tried asking one of the lawyers for a small contribution from his firm's immense winnings estimated at approximately a billion dollars so that we could better educate the public about smoking risks. Not surprisingly, we haven't heard anything back yet. Here's the letter:


May 18, 2000

Ron Motley
Ness Motley Loadholt Richardson & Poole

PO Box 1792
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina 29465

Dear Mr. Motley,

I am writing to request that you consider making a significant grant, perhaps at the $250,000 level, to support the anti-smoking education work of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Given that ACSH is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, your gift to ACSH would be tax deductible. We have enclosed evidence of our tax-exempt status.

We at ACSH are well aware of your commitment to public health and the urgent need to educate Americans on the specific facts about the health hazards of smoking. We are also well aware of, and admire, your financial success in litigation against the cigarette industry.

Your law firm has reaped tremendous rewards for taking on the once undefeated tobacco industry. Commenting on these gains in a 1999 Dallas Morning News article, one of your partners, Joe Rice, stated, "With this money comes responsibility and the need to give back to our profession and our communities." ACSH wholeheartedly agrees and our request for a contribution seems concordant with the spirit of Mr. Rice's pledge and with your own anti-tobacco efforts. We hope you will reinvest in "the cause" by giving a significant grant to ACSH.

As you are well aware, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States responsible for over 400,000 deaths a year. While the prevalence of smoking has dropped considerably since 1965, the downward trend has leveled off since 1990. More troubling is that the rate of smoking among high school and college students appears to be on the rise. Without effective interventions to discourage teen smoking, the young smokers of today will become the addicted adult smokers of tomorrow.

ACSH has a long and distinguished history of educating the public about the dangers of cigarette smoking and of holding the tobacco industry and the media accountable for promoting cigarettes without adequate mention of its risks.

Over the past decade, ACSH has monitored the accuracy and relevance of health and smoking coverage by popular women's magazines. ACSH published Cigarettes: What the Warning Label Doesn't Tell You, the first comprehensive review of the health consequences of smoking and just one of ACSH's many publications on smoking. ACSH has always been a salient and effective voice against cigarette smoking, contributing countless op-eds and letters-to-the-editors on the topic. On behalf of ACSH, I have testified in numerous lawsuits against the tobacco companies, most recently in Florida's groundbreaking Engle case.

With generous support from you, ACSH plans to intensify its educational campaign about the dangers of smoking.

Each year the tobacco industry spends billions of dollars on advertising, on convincing Americans that cigarette smoking is smart, sexy and liberating. Ironically, Philip Morris Inc. now runs two simultaneous and seemingly competing advertising campaigns one ostensibly aimed at discouraging youth smoking and the other intended to boost cigarette sales. Not surprisingly, a recent study reported that the PM campaign to discourage youth smoking is not only ineffective, but it may actually encourage the habit.

Unfortunately, Philip Morris seems to hold the monopoly on such broad-based campaigns. Only recently, "The Truth" campaign, spearheaded by the American Legacy Foundation, has begun to compete with nationwide advertisements. But, as with many of the state-level campaigns, "The Truth" campaign is funded by the Master Settlement Agreement, and as a result, has had to curtail its content to appease the tobacco industry.

Our campaign would complement the educational efforts of many states and the American Legacy Foundation. But, unlike the MSA-supported anti-smoking campaigns, our initiative would not have to adhere to the restrictions outlined by the MSA constraints, which arguably compromise the ultimate effectiveness of those campaigns.

The staff of ACSH and I extend an invitation to you to meet with us, at your convenience, to disc work. In the interim, please visit our website at to better acquaint yourself with ACSH. We would greatly appreciate your serious consideration of our request.


Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H.
American Council on Science and Health