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Editorial: Attorney general crusade

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former Attorney General Darrell McGraw won more than $1 billion for the Mountain State by suing tobacco firms for death and sickness they inflict on West Virginians and expense they impose on the state's medical programs.

Much of McGraw's windfall came through a Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) joined by attorneys general of many states. It forced death-dealing cigarette corporations to pay $10 billion a year for their harm, and also support efforts to save Americans from nicotine addiction.

Now, 28 attorneys general across America are engaged in a follow-up - attempting to persuade Wal-Mart, Kroger, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Safeway to stop selling cigarettes, as CVS and Target did previously.

But new West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey didn't join the renewed health effort. We wonder if it's because he's a Republican, and the GOP gets millions in campaign cash from Big Tobacco.

The national attorneys general group represent, alphabetically, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Washington state.

A letter signed by all 28 legal officers says "a principal goal of the MSA is to reduce underage tobacco use by discouraging such use and by preventing youth access to tobacco." So it urges the big store chains to quit selling health-killing cigarettes in the same buildings where they fill health-saving prescriptions - a peculiar contradiction.

The letter recounts:

"Since 1964, over 20 million Americans have died prematurely as a result of smoking. While most of these deaths were of adults with a history of smoking, 2.5 million deaths were of nonsmokers who died of heart of lung disease caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco-related disease is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing at least 480,000 premature deaths each year, which is more than AIDS, alcohol, illegal drug use, car accidents and firearm-related deaths combined. ... Health care costs and productivity losses attributable to smoking cost the nation at least $289 billion each year."

We hope West Virginia's Morrisey feels a pang of regret for this horror and joins the 28 attorneys general.

And we hope Wal-Mart, Kroger, Rite Aid, Walgreen's and Safeway follow the noble example of CVS and Target to save American lives.

 


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