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NAAG Convenes Fourth Triennial Conference To Discuss Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement

Bill Lieblich, Tobacco Deputy Chief Counsel

NAAG convened the Fourth Triennial Conference on Oct. 19 in Memphis, Tenn., held pursuant to the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (“MSA”). Section VIII (a) (2) of the MSA provides that “NAAG will convene . . . one major conference every three years for the Attorneys General of the Settling States, the directors of the [American Legacy] Foundation” and representatives of the tobacco companies that are parties to the MSA (“Participating Manufacturers”), and that the conference’s purpose “is to evaluate the success of this Agreement and coordinate efforts by the Attorneys General and the Participating Manufacturers to continue to reduce Youth smoking.”

Previous conferences were held in 2001 in Overland Park, Kan.; in 2004 in Burlington, Vt.; and in 2007 in Seattle, Wash. This year’s conference was hosted by Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr., and Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who serves as NAAG Tobacco Committee co-chair. New Mexico Attorney General Gary King and Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell participated as well. Also present were state health department and tobacco control officials; representatives of federal agencies; representatives of other organizations involved in public health and tobacco control, including the American Legacy Foundation; and representatives of the Participating Manufacturers.

The conference focused on recent federal legislation that has altered the landscape of tobacco regulation. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 granted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) broad authority to regulate tobacco products, while the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (“PACT”) Act, enacted earlier this year, placed significant new restrictions on the sale of tobacco products over the Internet, including the requirement that all such sales comply with the laws of the state in which the purchaser resides. Both statutes have created opportunities as well as challenges with regard to federal - state cooperation on tobacco control.

Attorneys General Cooper and McDaniel opened the conference by emphasizing the benefits to the states and their citizens of federal and state measures to reduce smoking. Lawrence Deyton, M.S.P.H, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, spoke about the FDA’s new authority from the perspective of those charged with implementing it. Dr. Deyton was followed by Maggie Mahoney, deputy director of the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, who described the effect of the Tobacco Control Act on federal preemption of state tobacco control laws and regulations, including the policy options the Act opens up for state and local governments. Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, illustrated the impact that the MSA and the FDA’s actions under the Tobacco Control Act have had on the marketing of tobacco products and some of the regulatory challenges that remain for the FDA ‑ as well as state and local governments ‑ under the new legislative framework.

Attendees then heard from several presenters who provided updates on subjects addressed at previous Triennials. That included the most recent data on trends in youth tobacco use, which indicate that reductions in youth smoking rates have reached a plateau in recent years, that youth use of other tobacco products such as smokeless tobacco is increasing, and that additional efforts are required in order to bring about further reductions.

Attorney General Sorrell and Cheryl Healton, PhD, American Legacy Foundation president and chief executive officer, both discussed the changing landscape of tobacco control and emerging opportunities for the Attorneys General.

Jonathan Polansky, a consultant to the University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education provided an update on efforts to reduce or eliminate smoking depictions in movies to which youth have access, a subject in which numerous Attorneys General have taken an interest over the past 10 years because of the well-documented effect of such depictions on youth smoking initiation.

Finally, a panel of experts on the PACT Act provided information concerning that legislation from a variety of perspectives. This included describing the dangers to public health historically posed by Internet sales of tobacco products, the efforts that had previously been made to restrict such sales, and the need for a federal solution that culminated in passage of the PACT Act. State efforts to prevent illegal Internet sales were recounted, along with the challenges still remaining after the PACT Act enactment. Federal officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives chronicled past and present federal enforcement efforts and explained how the Act provides the government new tools to address the issue of Internet sales. Lastly, José Luis Murillo, Jr., vice president and general counsel of Altria Client Services, Inc., discussed the ways in which the PACT Act allows for enhanced enforcement of both state laws and other federal statutes, and assists Altria in its efforts to prevent counterfeiting and contraband sales of its brands.

The next conference will be held in 2013.

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