WED AM: Webb asks Parrish about Altria, FDA Push

January 26, 2005 1:50 pm by Gene Borio

Philip Morris attorney Dan Webb began his cross of Steven Parrish with a delineation of the corporate structure of Altria and its “investment” companies. It’s a relatively complex structure I will talk about in a later piece. But Mr. Webb emphasized the complete separation of companies–officers, offices, financial records, etc.

Then he examined Philip Morris’ — and Mr. Parrish’s — confrontational approach to their adversaries in the mid-90s–ie, lawsuits (FDA and ABC), personal vilification (FDA chief David Kessler), etc.

Mr. Parrish said he came to a change of heart in the mid-late 90s.

He sat “across the table” with tobacco control advocates, government regulators and attorneys general during the fight for a national tobacco control bill (known as the Congressional Resolution of June 20, 1997). He also began to have “private, informal” meetings with Dr. Kessler, who had left the FDA at the time of the meetings. He said he apologized to Dr. Kessler, and was even invited by him to sit on a panel at a conference organized “by a health organization.”

He realized, he said, that many of the people he had considered adversaries were not what he himself had painted them as, but were actually people with whom he and Philip Morris could conceivably work.

Over the objections of DOJ attorney Gregg Schwind, Mr. Webb took Mr. Parrish through a brief timeline of Philip Morris’ current advocacy of FDA regulation.

He emphasized the company had worked with Rep. Waxman, Sens. DeWine and Kennedy, CTFK chief Matt Myers and, yes, ex-FDA chief David Kessler

NOTE: Dr. Eriksen will not testify until tomorrow, Thursday

4 Responses to “WED AM: Webb asks Parrish about Altria, FDA Push”

  1. krueger Says:

    It’s heartwarming to hear about Parrish’s “change of heart”.

    But has Philip Morris really changed?

    The evidence says no.

    For instance, in the 1950’s Philip Morris’s would fight scientific findings on smoking and health. A specific strategy: it would generate “controversy” where there was none. To accomplish that, it would fund, often secretly, projects aimed at undermining science that was finding its product causes disease. Has that changed?

    It has not. Years after Parrish’s “change of heart”, Philip Morris is still secretly fighting science that finds its products cause disease:

    http://www.forbes.com/lifestyle/health/feeds/hscout/2005/01/14/hscout523415.html

    I don’t know what’s in Parrish’s heart.

    I do know that Philip Morris hasn’t changed.
    That’s what the evidence says.

    Philip Morris is still in the business of getting its customers addicted to slow poison. Philip Morris is still bashing
    science it doesn’t like. The only thing that’s changed is its litigation and PR
    strategy.

  2. krueger Says:

    Parrish says he has worked with the public health community. Recent Philip Morris PR speeches have made the same claim. Here’s what the public health community says about that.

    October 19, 2004

    Louis C. Camilleri
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
    Altria Group, Inc.
    120 Park Avenue
    New York, New York 10017-5592

    Dear Mr. Camilleri:

    It has come to our attention that several executives of Altria/Philip Morris have recently given speeches suggesting that your company is in some way partnering with the public health community, specifically citing our four organizations. This is a completely false characterization.

    Philip Morris should stop trying to borrow legitimacy from our reputations and decades of work in tobacco control and public health. As the world’s largest multinational tobacco company, Philip Morris remains a primary contributor to the death and disease caused by tobacco use in the United States and around the world. In addition, more kids in the U.S. – 49.2 percent of smokers aged 12-17 – smoke Philip Morris’ Marlboros than nearly all other cigarette brands combined, according to the federal government’s National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health. Philip Morris also remains an opponent of such proven tobacco control measures as cigarette tax increases and smoke-free workplace laws.

    Philip Morris’ support of federal legislation our organizations endorsed to grant the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products does not make us “partners.” We call on Altria/Philip Morris to immediately cease such claims.

    Sincerely,

    John R. Seffrin, Ph.D.
    CEO
    American Cancer Society

    M. Cass Wheeler
    CEO
    American Heart Association

    John L. Kirkwood
    President and CEO
    American Lung Association

    Matthew L. Myers
    President
    Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

  3. tobacco observer Says:

    That’s a very good point. “Partners” in the literal sense would be parties that share like economic and financial interest in a particular business venture.

    For example, the various State gov’ts currently receive up to $5 in tax revenues from the sale of cigarettes for every $1 profit that the tobacco companies earn. So in every legtimate sense, the State gov’ts are currently majority partners in the American cigarette business.

    In a similar vein, the Federal gov’t enjoys an equal partnership in cigarette sales with tobacco taking in excise taxes nearly dollar for dollar with the profits earned by the cigarette companies per pack sold.

    Unfortunately, the gov’t is so unhappy with its current partnership arrangement with Tobacco that it seeking to renegotiate it by trying to capture an additional $280 billion in cigarette cash with this farcical lawsuit.

    Since the Federal gov’t seems to believe that the profits earned from sales of cigarettes to the “youth addicted” population of legal adult smokers between the ages of 18 and 21 represent “ill gotten” proceeds of an ongoing criminal enterprise, perhaps it ought to “disgorge” $280 billion in ill-gotten excise taxes from its beneficial partnership with organized crime.

  4. krueger Says:

    You’re absolutely right: the government has become a partner in the tobacco business.

    But that’s irrelevant to Parrish’s claim. He claims Big Tobacco is now a partner of health groups.

    Parrish’s attempt to paint Big Tobacco as the good guy, part of the solution, is a great PR ploy. And I’d say Parrish sells it as well as anyone can.

    But the facts are otherwise. Big Tobacco is not a partner with health groups. The health groups make that clear. And Big Tobacco has not changed. The evidence makes that clear.

    Big Tobacco has not become part of the solution. It is still very much part of the problem.

    Now, if Big Tobacco wanted to become part of the solution, nothing stops it. It could drop its marketing that appeals to kids, tomorrow. It could stop engineering product for addiction, right now. It could stop fighting smokefree policies that help smokers who want to quit, any time it wants. It could stop downplaying what its product does to its customer, right now. It could stop putting its profits above public health, any time.

    And it could stop denying that it does all these things, any time it wants. It could tell the truth.

    If it wanted to be part of the solution, it could do all these things any time.

    But it has no intention of being part of the solution. It wants to be part of the problem. It makes its money by being part of the problem. It only wants to look like it’s part of the solution, to push an image of ever-helpful Philip Morris. That’s why it tries to wrap itself in the legitimacy of health groups.

    The health groups say: no, Philip Morris, you’re not a partner with us. You’re not a partner with the public. You’re not a partner for health. You’re a partner with disease and death. Please don’t pretend otherwise.

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