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Post date: March 8 2006

Cigarette Sales Hit Historic 55-year Low

Attorney General Spitzer and a coalition of Attorneys General nationwide today announced that cigarette sales have dropped to the lowest level since 1951.

"The continuing long-term decline in the number of cigarettes sold and in the number of smokers is evidence that we are winning the war against smoking," Spitzer said.

Spitzer credited the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) as a major reason for the decline.

According to the latest figures compiled by the U.S. Treasury Department, cigarette sales dropped 4.2 percent last year. This continues a sharp decline in sales (21 percent) since the MSA was implemented in 1998.

Anti-smoking and public health advocates hailed the latest figures:

Russell Sciandra, Director of the Center For A Tobacco Free New York, said: "In 2005, New York's smoking rate reached an all time low in no small part because of the Master Settlement Agreement. Maintaining this life-saving trend depends upon continued vigilance against Big Tobacco's efforts to evade MSA restrictions on their most outrageous marketing practices that they agreed to honor."

Cheryl Healton, President of the American Legacy Foundation, said: "The Master Settlement Agreement placed significant restrictions on the advertising and marketing practices of the tobacco companies, and also provided funding for an effective anti-smoking public education campaign targeted directly at youth. These new numbers conclusively demonstrate that the combination of these two factors - - together with the hard work of the Attorneys General and the public health community - - has resulted in a major reduction in smoking rates since the MSA was signed."

The MSA created a broad array of restrictions on the advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes. For example, it prohibited the targeting of youth in cigarette advertising. It also prohibited outdoor advertising of cigarettes and the advertising of cigarettes in public transit facilities, as well as the use of cigarette brand names on merchandise, and a host of other restrictions. The payment provisions of the MSA were designed to compensate the states in part for the billions of dollars in health care costs associated with treating tobacco-related diseases under state Medicaid programs.

Attorneys General have also directly addressed the issue of youth tobacco use by enforcing the settlement agreements against violations by the tobacco companies - such as Brown & Williamson's "Kool Mixx" marketing campaign that used hip-hop culture to promote cigarettes; pursuing agreements with major retailers to ensure that they do not sell tobacco products to underage persons; and suing Internet tobacco vendors who sell tobacco products without verifying the age of their purchasers.

In addition to leading MSA enforcement actions, Spitzer's office has also initiated a series of actions to curtail illegal shipment and sales of cigarettes. These include agreements signed in the last year under which major credit card companies, shipping companies and the nation's largest tobacco manufacturer all committed themselves to cease doing business with operators of illegal tobacco retail websites.

Spitzer said the decline in cigarette sales to a 55-year low is even more impressive because the population of the United States has more than doubled since 1951.


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