June 2001

Grant Results

SUMMARY

From 1995 to 1997, Morse Enterprises, Inc., a Silver Spring, Md., consulting firm organized a series of three, day-long invitational conferences to raise the issue of tobacco divestment among African-American leaders — whether African-American organizations should withdraw their interest in tobacco stock and otherwise reject financial support, promotion, or marketing from the tobacco industry.

Sponsored by the National Smoking Cessation Campaign for African American Women (renamed in 1997 the National Tobacco Independence Campaign), the series of conferences involved 56 African-American leaders drawn mainly from the political, medical, academic, and social welfare fields; some attended all three meetings.

Participants engaged in frank, off-the-record discussions of the divestiture issue with assurances that their names would not be publicly released.

Key Results
A majority of the conferees considered divestiture a worthwhile long-term goal but deemed such a policy shift unfeasible for most organizations at the time given the continued and significant dependence of many organizations on tobacco-related funds. The conferees noted:

  • Silence on the part of African-American organizations regarding the health consequences of tobacco is the result of several factors.
  • The desirability of pursuing divestment in the future depends on further investigation into the merits of such a policy and the ability of African-American organizations to carry it out.
  • Of paramount concern in severing this relationship would be identifying and securing commensurate, replacement funds.
  • The adoption of a widespread divestment policy among African-American organizations would require a significant education effort clearly demonstrating how the health consequences of tobacco use outweigh the legality of its use.
  • Tobacco-control advocates and health professionals need to better understand and use the black media to educate African-American organizations about the hazards of tobacco and its health consequences among their constituents.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the effort with a grant of $59,101 between November 1995 and March 1997.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
 Back to the Table of Contents


THE PROBLEM

Nearly 34 percent of adult black men smoke, and tobacco use among black male youth has increased from 14.1 percent in 1991 to 27.8 percent in 1995. Almost 22 percent of adult black women are smokers.

Yet, outside of the tobacco-control movement, leaders of African-American organizations have not publicly expressed a view about tobacco-control measures directed at youths or adults, and their organizations, which provide social programs in black communities and economic security for individuals, have a long history of financial support from the tobacco industry.

 Back to the Table of Contents


THE PROJECT

Morse Enterprises, Inc., organized a series of three, day-long invitational conferences to raise the issue of tobacco divestment among African-American leaders — whether African-American organizations should withdraw their interest in tobacco stock and otherwise reject financial support, promotion, or marketing from the tobacco industry.

Sponsored by the National Smoking Cessation Campaign for African American Women (renamed in 1997 the National Tobacco Independence Campaign), the series of conferences involved 56 African-American leaders drawn mainly from the political, medical, academic, and social welfare fields; some attended all three meetings.

The first meeting (November 11, 1995) in Durham, N.C., was attended by 20 leaders; two further meetings (December 10, 1996, and March 6, 1997) in Silver Spring, Md., were attended by 18 leaders each. Participants engaged in frank, off-the-record discussions of the divestiture issue with assurances that their names would not be publicly released.

 Back to the Table of Contents


RESULTS

A majority of the conferees considered divestiture a worthwhile long-term goal but deemed such a policy shift unfeasible for most organizations at the time given the continued and significant dependence of many organizations on tobacco-related funds. The conferees noted:

  • Silence on the part of African-American organizations regarding the health consequences of tobacco is the result of several factors. These include:
    • A desire not to offend donors.
    • An absence of standards regarding funding sources.
    • A failure to view tobacco control as an immediate and significant imperative.

    In addition, the presence of tobacco industry personnel on the boards of African-American organizations has a chilling effect on tobacco-control efforts.
  • The desirability of pursuing divestment in the future depends on further investigation into the merits of such a policy and the ability of African-American organizations to carry it out.
  • Of paramount concern in severing this relationship would be identifying and securing commensurate, replacement funds. No significant steps were achieved in identifying such replacement funds.
  • The adoption of a widespread divestment policy among African-American organizations would require a significant education effort clearly demonstrating how the health consequences of tobacco use outweigh the legality of its use.
  • Tobacco-control advocates and health professionals need to better understand and use the black media to educate African-American organizations about the hazards of tobacco and its health consequences among their constituents.
  • An economic analysis is needed that demonstrates the cost of tobacco-related illness, disease and mortality versus the benefits of industry funding in the African-American community.
  • African-American leaders should be encouraged to hold discussions at their organizations about tobacco control, focusing on preventing the use of tobacco products by black youth. Additionally, discussions should address actions that would be required when and if divestiture becomes a desired course of action.
  • Future efforts and dialogues regarding tobacco control should be framed more broadly than as simply a contest between pro- and anti- divestment camps. Instead, efforts should focus on a range of steps leading towards tobacco independence in the African American-community.

 Back to the Table of Contents


AFTER THE GRANT

Since the grant ended, the project director arranged a panel on the topic "Ethical Issues in Accepting Tobacco Industry Funds" for the World No Tobacco Day Conference. The eighth annual conference of the National Tobacco Independence Campaign, scheduled for November 2001, will repeat this panel.

 Back to the Table of Contents


GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Conference on Sustaining African-American Organizations Without Tobacco Industry Support

Grantee

Morse Enterprises, Inc. (Silver Spring,  MD)

  • Amount: $ 59,101
    Dates: November 1995 to March 1997
    ID#:  028046

Contact

Mildred S. Morse
(301) 879-7933

 Back to the Table of Contents


BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Sponsored Conferences

National Smoking Cessation Campaign for African American Women's Colloquy on Divestiture and Replacement Funds for African American Women, November 11, 1995, Durham, N.C. Attended by 20 participants representing a wide spectrum of African-American leadership.

The National Smoking Cessation Campaign for African American Women's Colloquy on Divestiture and Replacement Funds for African American Women, December 10, 1996, and March 6, 1997, Silver Spring, Md. Two follow-up colloquies, each attended by 18 participants representing a wide spectrum of African-American leadership.

 Back to the Table of Contents


Report prepared by: Eric Wertzer
Reviewed by: Susan G. Parker
Reviewed by: Janet Heroux
Program Officer: Marilyn Aguirre-Molina

Most Requested