Snowed-in senator misses CD meeting

Taking the place of snowed-in Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a GW law professor spoke Monday of the consequences of tobacco settlements.

John Banzhaf, who teaches public interest law, spoke in the Marvin Center Ballroom at an event sponsored by the College Democrats and the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Youth after Durbin’s last-minute cancellation from Chicago.

Banzhaf is the founder, executive director and chief counsel of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), an anti-smoking legal action organization that has been successful in forcing policy changes against smoking through litigation.

“We’re like the American Lung Association, except we sue people instead of doing research and education,” he said.

Banzhaf said he once called the fire marshal to an event in the Marvin Center in order to stop people from smoking.

In the speech, Banzhaf outlined the history of tobacco regulation and assessed where the settlement stands.

He said public opinion has turned against tobacco, so companies have introduced the idea of a “damages cap,” which would limit the total amount the companies would have to pay in any year. After the amount is paid, companies would be safe until the next year and could make up the losses – a position equal to immunity and one tobacco companies do not deserve, Banzaff said.

Banzhaf said a ban on tobacco advertising is not very important because it is easy for companies to find alternatives. The best way to curb smoking is by raising the price of cigarettes, he said

Some students said they had mixed feelings about the event. Others said they were impressed by Banzhaf’s speech, but disappointed Durbin did not make it

“It’s always cool to see a senator, but he can’t control the weather,” David Bein said.

Others said their disappointment stemmed from the fact that they attended the speech for classes and expected to use the senator’s speech in assignments.

Saurab Malhotra and Nitin Chawla, both pursuing graduate degrees in business administration, said they were very disappointed the senator did not speak because they needed the information for a public policy class paper.

“(Banzhaf) really taught College Democrats about the issues involved in big tobacco,” said Adam Green, events director for CDs.

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