Tobacco is still the number one killer in our nation. But as Peter Jennings reveals in this critical examination of the ‘tobacco wars,’ not just tobacco companies are responsible – but also the government and prominent public health advocates who squandered an historic opportunity to settle with the industry, regulate tobacco, and save millions of lives.
Peter Jennings Reporting – From the Tobacco File: Stories of Betrayal and Neglect tells the story of a rare chance to reign in big tobacco at a time when the industry was under siege from government officials who wanted to regulate it and state Attorneys General who were suing it.
The story starts in the mid-1990s, when Mississippi Attorney General Michael Moore sued the tobacco industry to recover hundreds of billions of dollars spent by states caring for sick smokers. Publicly the tobacco companies were confident and still denying that smoking was dangerous or addictive. But privately they were terrified and believed their very survival was at stake. They were quietly looking for a way to settle. In a rare interview with a senior Philip Morris official, Jennings goes behind the scenes to explore what was happening within this very worried industry.
Moore’s lawsuit resulted in an historic settlement with the tobacco companies that would have changed how they made and marketed cigarettes. But some of tobacco’s enemies were skeptical, concerned that the agreement went too easy on the industry. From the Tobacco File investigates how support for that settlement – and a subsequent, potentially landmark bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain – fell apart under attack, ironically, from public health activists like former FDA commissioner David Kessler and former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
Jennings looks at the fallout from the failure to pass legislation that would have changed the tobacco industry forever. Today both the states and the federal government have all but abandoned efforts to prevent smoking or regulate the nation’s most deadly product. From the Tobacco File reveals how a nation’s neglect continues to cost millions and millions of lives.
From the Tobacco File: Untold Stories of Betrayal and Neglect first aired September 8, 2004 on ABC.
PRODUCED Keith Summa
CORRESPONDENT Peter Jennings
WRITTEN BY Peter Jennings Keith Summa
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Ben McCoy
EDITOR Faith Jones
FIELD PRODUCER Linda Hirsch
SENIOR PRODUCTION ASSOCIATE María E. Matasar-Padilla
SOUND Steve Lederer
MUSIC Ben Decter
COORDINATING PRODUCER Gabrielle Tenenbaum
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Tom Yellin