American Legacy and the “truth”: Your Letters

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We are concerned by the inaccuracies and innuendo in your series of articles, “The Truth About American Legacy” [October].

• The article maintains that youth smoking rates have hit a plateau and therefore the foundation’s “truth” youth smoking prevention campaign is no longer effective. Both assertions are inaccurate. Monitoring the Future reported in December 2008 that “Cigarette smoking rates among American teens in 2008 are at the lowest levels since at least as far back as the early 1990s.”

• Peer-reviewed research shows that the foundation’s award-winning “truth” campaign remains highly effective and cost-efficient. This year alone, three research papers released by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and Ethnicity and Health found that “truth” was responsible for keeping 450,000 teens from starting to smoke during its first four years.

• The articles claim that “truth” is not active on social networking sites or the Internet. There have been more than 6.6 million visits to “truth” Web properties in the past three years. The campaign has a presence on Facebook, YouTube, Bebo, MySpace, Hi5, Xanga and Imeem.

• The series raises concerns about the organization’s investment strategies, confusing sophisticated portfolio management with risky investing. Our investments have out-performed most market indices, with the result that we have more, rather than less, resources to fund our life-saving programs. We have never received anything other than a clean audit.

• We would like to set the record straight with regard to Dr. Cheryl Healton’s compensation. The foundation is a large and complex operation that requires a unique style of leadership – bold and effective leadership that Dr. Healton has provided for nearly a decade. The board reviews the CEO’s performance annually, and those reviews have consistently been outstanding.

• The lengthy discussion of a tiny subset of sponsorships and contributions the foundation has made over the years to various organizations is extremely misleading, with prominent illustrations referencing the Washington National Opera and the New York Botanical Garden. The foundation has made more than $165 million in grants to outside organizations. Barely a fraction of 1 percent of these grants has gone to arts or cultural organizations, but these contributions have been deliberate and strategic. For years, the tobacco industry has been a prominent patron of the arts. When we have sponsored such events, it has been to counter-market industry-related messages.

Legacy stands proudly by its financial and programmatic decisions. We have delivered unprecedented results against our mission and we will not apologize for implementing diverse and innovative programs that continue to save lives and money.

Benjamin K. Chu, Board Chairman
Steven A. Schroeder, William H. Sorrell
Former Board Chairmen

Your note that “The American Legacy Foundation’s spending receives little outside scrutiny. No outside oversight of the foundation is prescribed, even though the foundation’s money comes primarily from the public,” lies at the crux of the issue. Like all anti-smoking work, Legacy demands that it be seen as “one of the angels” and that everything it does, thinks or touches should simply be assumed to be pure. In reality, that is not the case, and my guess is that your research so far is merely skimming the very tip of the iceberg.

Legacy may not be as corrupt as the tobacco companies of the 1950s, but they probably share the same hotel.

Michael J. McFadden
(The writer operates The Truth is a Lie website.)

Your article highlights the substantial support that the Legacy Foundation has provided to the University of California San Francisco to create the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, which has grown to over 52 million pages of previously secret tobacco industry documents. Thanks to Legacy’s long-term vision, we have been able to make this unique resource free to educators, researchers, advocates, media, governments and youth worldwide.

You also were critical of Legacy’s support of the Avalon Theater in Washington, D.C. Legacy partnered with Avalon to show anti-tobacco “truth” spots before films, a key policy demand of a wide range of health groups to reduce the huge effect that onscreen smoking has in promoting adolescent smoking. Legacy used this sponsorship to conduct audience research that showed that viewers not only did not object to the ads, but approved of them. This information was critical in convincing all the major motion picture studios to include anti-smoking ads (from Legacy or the State of California) on their DVDs.

Stanton A. Glantz
American Legacy Foundation
Distinguished Professor in Tobacco Control University of California, San Francisco
(The writer’s job is funded by Legacy.)

Note: Youth Today stands by the accuracy of its story. The full version of Legacy’s response, along with other responses to the story, can be found in the Archives section of http://www.youthtoday.org, by searching for “American Legacy” under the Latest News department. The comments are at the end of the story.