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You are here : 3-RX.com > Home > Tobacco & Marijuana -

U.S. witness calls for $130 bln stop-smoking plan

Tobacco & MarijuanaMay 18, 05

Cigarette makers should be forced to fund a 25-year, $130 billion program to help smokers who want to quit, a witness testified on Tuesday in the U.S. government’s racketeering case against the tobacco industry.

Smoking cessation expert Michael Fiore told a federal judge the expensive, long-running campaign would be needed to get counseling and medication to the 32.1 million people out of 47 million U.S. smokers who say they want to quit.

“The sad reality is most of them fail,” Fiore told U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler. He said only 1.2 million of the 18.8 million who say they try to quit each year succeed.

Helping those people quit smoking would be the most cost-effective of all possible medical “interventions,” said Fiore, a medical professor at the University of Wisconsin who has researched tobacco addiction.

But a lawyer for the tobacco industry told Kessler later in the day that Fiore had inflated the cost of the program by overestimating the number of smokers who would use it.

In February, an appeals court barred the government from seeking $280 billion in past industry profits as a penalty if Kessler finds the companies guilty of conspiring to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking.

Lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department hope to use Fiore’s testimony to convince Kessler to impose a tough, alternative remedy on the industry. The trial began in September.

Fiore outlined a plan that would require cigarette makers to pay $5.2 billion a year for the next 25 years. Of that amount, $3.2 billion would be used to provide free stop-smoking medications, $1 billion would go to promote a national “quit line” and another $1 billion would be for research and physician training.

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The major tobacco companies deny they illegally conspired to promote smoking and say the government has no grounds to pursue them after they drastically overhauled marketing practices as part of a 1998 state settlement.

Fiore blamed the low quit rate of smokers on “barriers” such as program restrictions and health insurance co-payments that he said discourage or prevent smokers from getting the counseling and medication they need.

Most states have set up smoking “quit lines” to provide help and advice. But Fiore said most people aren’t aware of them “because states just don’t have the money to promote them.”

Philip Morris lawyer Ted Wells sharply questioned Fiore’s cost estimates.

Wells told the judge the figure was based on the assumption that 16 percent of smokers would use the national quit line—a far greater percentage than typically use state quit lines.

Advocates of the national quit line have said it would be used by more smokers because it would be more heavily promoted. But Wells disputed that this could account for the disparity.

Wells also highlighted the existing state quit lines, and said cessation counseling and medications are being covered by a growing number of private and government health insurers.

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