With a little help from their friends on Capitol Hill, the Coalition on Smoking OR Health, the public policy arm of the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, last week announced a year-long agenda to take on smoking and the tobacco industry.
The 3-year-old group said it would encourage congressional hearings in part to prompt Federal Trade Commission action on allegedly deceptive cigarette advertising practices and as-yet unregulated ads for snuff and chewing tobacco. It will work for the maintenance of federal tobacco excise taxes on cigarettes -- scheduled to expire this year -- and push for Hill action to protect taxpayers from the costs of federal tobacco price supports.
It will also call for hearings on smoking in the military, a situation termed "distressing" by a spokesman from the heart association. For example, smoking rates exceed the national average by about 20 percent -- higher among younger military personnel. Tobacco prices for military, exempt from all taxes, are as much as 40 percent lower than to the general public, and tobacco products are still sold in military and veterans' medical facilities.
A prime target will be ways to block cigarette companies from getting ads on television even though they are officially banned. For example, said coalition staff director Matthew I. Myers, "Every time [the] San Francisco [49ers] scored during the NFC championship, TV viewers saw a Marlboro billboard -- next to the scoreboard."