Who Will Protect The Health Of Our Nation?

Nowadays, one of the most important battles of our time is going on, which is the end of the war that was waged by the American government against tobacco companies for more than 3 decades. A lot of analysts in America believe that the 20th of June 1997 will enter history as one of the most important days of this battle.


Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, who represent 40 states, were able to reach a settlement with the major tobacco companies, where the companies pledged to pay $368 billion in 25-year duration.


The settlement can be summarized as the following:

  • Tobacco companies pledge to pay $3.8 billion for lawsuits, and also $10 billion as a first installment to treat smoke-affected patients immediately after signing the settlement, then $8.5 billion annually during the first few years to be increased to $15 billion every year.

  • Tobacco companies will pay $2 billion every year to finance the anti-smoking campaign inside America and to help smokers quit, aiming at lowering the rates of smoking among teenagers in more than 30% during 5 years, 50% in 7 years and 60% in 10 years.

In case these promises weren’t fulfilled by the tobacco companies, they will be penalized with an annual $80 million fine for every 1% shortage in the percentage assigned for that year or up to $2 billion annually.


And that does not take away individuals’ right to make lawsuits against tobacco companies but limits the total of compensations to be up to $5 billion a year.


  • Advertisements targeting minors or teenagers in America are prohibited, such as using characters in TV commercials, cartoons, movies or the internet.

  • Increase the size of warnings on cigarette packs.

  • Classify tobacco as a drug, to be listed and supervised by the Food and Drug Administration.

This agreement does not prevent suing tobacco companies or their directors with the presence of incriminating material from the past, present or future, and courts should carry on with investigations and revise the files and behavior of these companies.


There are many other items in the list that we cannot cover in the article.


Furthermore, some analysts and health officials are still demanding the modification of some items in the settlement to increase the restrictions on tobacco companies before it passes the Congress’ approval.


The main point is that during the last 5 years (1990 – 1995), the rates of tobacco sales made a 4.5% decrease in the US, 11.3% in Latin America and 1.7% in Europe, while the rates increased 8.8% in Asia, and the Middle East scored the highest increase of 17.7%.


This information is confirmed by the International Tobacco Community, issued in the New York Times Newspaper on Tuesday, 24 June 1997.


The report also confirms that tobacco companies have an incomparable chance for success and growth in the Middle East, especially that settlements that are currently being signed between tobacco companies and the American government do not have a single item that limits their activities outside the United States.


Additionally, the report assures that tobacco companies will have no choice but to widen their activities and open new markets in the Middle East and third world countries to compensate for the upcoming losses inside the United States as a result of the settlement.


This means that the source of the major part of tobacco companies’ profits is outside the US, while compensations for the effects of smoking are paid inside the US.


I am demanding that all ministers of health in the Arab world should construct committees of doctors, lawyers, economists and media persons to make a plan to deal with this disease which is worsening every day, and put indicators, standards and goals for the next two decades, as well as research the possibility of making similar lawsuits to the ones made in the United States against tobacco companies, knowing that their violations in the Middle East are more apparent, especially as they promote smoking to children and teenagers, and export certain kinds of tobacco that include a high nicotine content that is prohibited in the United States.


We always follow the Western lead in a lot of harmful and unfruitful matters. If only we could follow their example in what is good for us, our children and our nation.


Yes… These days attest one of the most important battles of our time.


But a lot of us don’t realize that we might be the first casualties of the battle.