The Center for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Tobacco-Settlement Negotiations

The Center for Tobacco-Free Kids was created in 1995 to develop and promote a national strategy to reduce smoking by young people and to be a focal point for communicating with the media. Soon after it was established, an unprecedented set of circumstances created a unique opportunity for the Center to become involved in the comprehensive legal settlement that was being negotiated between the tobacco industry and state governments. While the Center carried out—and continues to carry out—a broad range of policy, communications, advocacy, and technical support activities, its involvement in the tobacco negotiations thrust it into a role far different than the one it played previously or subsequently.

In this chapter, Digby Diehl, a free-lance writer and frequent contributor to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Anthology series, tells the story of this exceptional 15-month period in the Center's history. The Center's involvement in the tobacco settlement was controversial. Indeed, the anti-tobacco community was fragmented, and its members disagreed about the role the Center should play in the negotiations, the wisdom of sitting down with the tobacco companies, and the terms of the settlement itself.

As it turned out, Congress did not approve the settlement, the states that had been suing the tobacco companies agreed to a watered-down version, and the Center moved on to support the efforts of state and local advocates to improve the resources at their disposal, to work with them to bring professional communications skills to the effort, and to develop plans to reach out to communities not previously involved in tobacco work.