Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

"Good Morning Washington"
Sunday morning, April 27, 1997
Transcript: Segment on tobacco ruling, settlement and controversy.

Host: Dale Solly and Pamela Davis
Guests: Scott Ballin, Esq., American Heart Association
and Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D., American University School of Public Affairs

DAVIS: ...A major battle is brewing in the tobacco industry. We'll talk with two experts that will help us understand where that battle is headed...Stay right there...


SOLLY: And good morning and welcome back everybody. The news continues now. When U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen ruled Friday that tobacco products fit the federal definition of a drug, he cleared the way for the potential regulation of those products by the FDA. He also gave the tobacco companies a slight victory though in ruling that the government could not restrict cigarette advertising. All of this comes, as you know, as government and tobacco company lawyers continue talks on a settlement that would end on- going litigation to force cigarette makers to pay smokers and states for health damage already caused by smoking. However, the smoke in this controversy is far from cleared.

Joining us this morning are Dr. Jeffrey Schaler of American University, a psychologist and expert on addiction, thanks very much, and Scott Ballin, the vice-president and legislative counsel for the American Heart Association. Thanks guys, very much, for being here today.

SCHALER: Thank you for having us.

SOLLY: I should point out that we tried, repeatedly, to get someone from the tobacco industry in, and they told us repeatedly that they were not interested, so we apologize for that. Neither of you thinks that this idea of a settlement is a particularly terrific idea, but you come at it from very different ways. Dr. Schaler, what's the problem with it? It sounds like a good idea to a lot of people.

SCHALER: Well, there are a lot of myths surrounding this whole tobacco controversy. The anti-tobacco crusaders are basically lying to the American public. They're lying in two ways: One, they're lying about what addiction really means--and this is the basis upon which the FDA is trying to regulate tobacco, and it's also the basis upon which product liability suits are being carried out--

SOLLY: ...You're one of those people...

SCHALER: ...They're also lying about the relationship between liberty and responsibility, and that has very serious legal and public policy consequences.

SOLLY: Mr. Ballin, are you and other groups lying?

BALLIN: No, I don't think so. I think the issue of addiction is well-founded and understood by all the medical groups in this country. Dr. Koop, in the Surgeon General's report back in 1988, looked at all the evidence, every organization including the American Medical Association, the Heart Association, Cancer Society, all agree that tobacco is a highly addictive substance and should be treated as such. We're not asking for a ban on the product. We're asking that the FDA regulate this product as it does every other legal product, such as foods or other prescription drugs.

SOLLY: Dr. Schaler, that sounds reasonable to a lot of people, what's the problem with that?

SCHALER: Well, the problem is that what they're saying about addiction is inaccurate. They're making a political ploy, defining addiction as saying that people...

SOLLY: ...Addiction is addiction though, isn't it?

SCHALER: Addiction is not addiction. It depends on what you mean. If you mean there are physiological changes in the body that occur through smoking, yes, of course that's true. But, if by addiction you mean people cannot control their behavior, that is absolutely false. Now, smoking is a choice, and because it's a choice it's based in values. What the FDA wants to do is regulate morality here and I am very much opposed to that. That is very much against what our Founding Fathers created this country for.

SOLLY: We have about a minute left. Mr. Ballin, take out your crystal ball for us and give us your take on what's going to happen with this settlement.

BALLIN: I think, first of all, the FDA issue will be upheld in the courts. It's very clear the FDA does have the authority. I think with respect to the settlement, we have to wait and see what happens. There's going to be a lot of talk and discussion going on. I think that the attorneys general who brought these suits will eventually win as well. And I think that the FDA will win. That will bring the tobacco industry to the bargaining table in a way that they've never been brought before. And I think we're going to see some major victories in public health from the settlement.

SOLLY: Dr. Schaler, our last ten seconds go to you.

SCHALER: I think this settlement is going to bring disaster in terms of public and legal policy. And I think that the tobacco industry should not settle. And I think the American public should be aware of what the FDA and the attorneys general are really trying to do, that is, legislate morality.

SOLLY: And just for the record gentlemen, the settlement, whatever it may be or may not be, is still some ways away. So the controversy, Pamela, continues this morning. And we're going back over to Ken right now. No controversy about the weather, right?

8:47am Finish.