Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Big Tobacco CEOs and their Big Payday

We all know that Big Tobacco companies are big spenders.

While many states including Wisconsin have been making significant budget cuts to tobacco prevention and control programs, Big Tobacco continues to spend big money to lure new customers and keep their current ones.

Big Tobacco spends more than $1 million an hour to market their products in the U.S. – including $233 million a year on advertising in Wisconsin.

The financial payoff for running a Big Tobacco company and peddling its deadly products is also huge. In 2011, the three men at the helms of Big Tobacco in the U.S. had combined salaries of nearly $32 million.

Last year, Lorillard Inc. CEO Murray Kessler made $13 millionAltria Group CEO Michael E. Szymanczyk made $10.2 million and Reynolds American chief Daniel M. Delen made $8.5 million.

The salaries are as staggering as Big Tobacco’s destructive effects on human health.

Only New York, Florida and California spend more than $32 million a year on tobacco prevention – while 47 states and the District of Columbia spend less. 

If $32 million were put toward tobacco prevention budgets, we could double every single tobacco prevention budget in 16 states: Missouri, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Washington, Idaho, Kansas, New Jersey, Michigan, Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska, Iowa, Vermont, South Dakota, Massachusetts and Maryland.  

Wisconsin spends $5.3 million a year on our state tobacco prevention and control program. If we invested those Big Tobacco salaries in Wisconsin, we would increase our state prevention funding by seven times. That would bring us closer to the $64 million a year the CDC recommends Wisconsin spend on tobacco prevention programs. 

The battle with Big Tobacco is far from over. Smoking kills nearly 8,000 people a year in Wisconsin and is the leading preventable cause of death. Two young smokers replace every person who dies of smoking each year and tobacco use has created a pediatric epidemic in the U.S.

We know we have a steep uphill battle. We can – we must – and we will – continue to fight against the Big Spending of Big Tobacco.