Case #1737.0

"Dealing with the Devil": The Tobacco Control Negotiations of 1997-98

Publication Date: March 25, 2004
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The decade of the 1990s was one of increasingly bitter public criticism of the major US tobacco companies on the part of a number of anti-tobacco advocacy groups, who were collectively known as the tobacco control movement. In their zeal to limit cigarette smoking, it was hardly uncommon for such groups to vilify tobacco companies on moral and ethical grounds. So it was no small surprise when, in the spring of 1997, Matthew Myers, executive vice-president of one of the nation's leading tobacco control groups, the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, was invited to sit down with representatives of the tobacco industry to discuss a grand compromise: billions in damages to be paid by the industry in exchange for protection from further legal liability due to the health effects of its products. This case, based on the book "Smoke in Their Eyes; Lessons in Movement Leadership from the Tobacco Wars" (Michael Pertschuk, Vanderbilt University Press, 2001), effectively tells the story of the historic behind-the-scenes tobacco settlement negotiations, which involved the attorneys general of several states, private attorneys, tobacco industry representatives, and Myers, as the lone representative of the tobacco control movement. The case, however, is not designed as a vehicle for discussion of tobacco issues per se (although it can serve that purpose) but, rather, for discussion of the dynamics of negotiations--in particular, the difficult but not uncommon position of Matthew Myers as one who, while attempting to forge a compromise, must also find ways not to lose the support of those in his movement who have more radical views.

Learning Objective:
The case could be useful in discussion of any negotiation--including the political--in which the two sides are polarized. Discussion of the pressures on Myers serves as a template and a metaphor for those who would seek the middle ground.

Other Details

Case Author:
Philip Heymann
Faculty Lead:
Philip Heymann
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
Center for Public Leadership