Not a bad way to spend a day listening to the likes of former Justice Department attorney Sharon Eubanks talk about how the Bush administration thwarted efforts at a RICO conviction for big tobacco.
19 September 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
contact J.R. Few
Advocates Hold State Conference
Advocates from across Arkansas gathered to challenge the tobacco industry at the 7th annual Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas’ Striking Out Tobacco in Arkansas Conference at the Wyndham-Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock September 17th.
After a welcome from CTFA Executive Director Katherine Donald And CTFA Board Chair Carla Sparks, the audience enjoyed a panel discussion: The Past Present and Future of Tobacco Control in Arkansas. Panelists ranged from attorney Tim Gauger, who worked with then Attorney General Winston Bryant to secure Arkansas’ Master Settlement funds in the late 90s, to the current Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Branch Chief for the Arkansas’ Department of Health, Dr Carolyn Dresler. Speaking for the American Heart Association, Barbara Kumpe reminded that Arkansas’s distinctive use of MSA dollars for health related issues was the result of a 64% voter mandate in 2000.
Former Department of Justice attorney Sharon Eubanks gave the Luncheon Plenary as an overview of her successful prosecution of the tobacco industry as lead attorney for racketeering and fraud charges in 2006. A career government lawyer, Eubanks recounted how Bush Administration appointees, when it became apparent the case would succeed, directed her to drop a $130 billion remedy that included a national tobacco cessation program and even attempted to get witnesses to change their testimony just days before the final hearing. She resigned from the Justice Department as the result of this politically motivated interference. An appellate court upheld the racketeering decision earlier this year.
Briefing the audience on the recent law giving the FDA limited authority over tobacco, she noted that this bill was written 10 years ago. “And we have learned much more about the industry and tobacco since then.” She went on to suggest that certain commercial speech restrictions may not stand the scrutiny of litigation.
Mr. Joe Arnold was recognized with the Trail Blazer Award for his persistent and successful efforts to enact a tobacco free policy for all Little Rock city parks, including Riverfront Park.
Conference participants were given a wide choice of workshop topics including tobacco in the gay and lesbian community, tobacco in the Coordinated School Health programs, recent laws in Arkansas involving tobacco, and a media and counter-marketing workshop by local activist J.R. Few.
Perhaps the highpoint of the day was the closing presentation by La Tanisha Wright with the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network. A former Brown and Williamson employee, Ms. Wright gave an eloquent, informative, and emotional insider’s overview of the history of tobacco and slavery and how marketing tactics continue to target and enslave African Americans today.
Local advocates Harry Meyer and his daughter Ida attended the CTFA event. “Ida talked about the last speaker all the way home and is still talking about it,” says Meyer. “That woman made a huge impression on her, me too for that matter. The conference was a tremendous learning opportunity for anyone.”