Assistant AG O'Dea Recognized As National Leader In Tobacco Enforcement

June 22, 2004

The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) last week awarded Maine Assistant Attorney General Melissa Reynolds O'Dea the 2004 Loveland Tobacco Award. The Loveland Award is awarded annually. The award is named for the late Laurie Loveland, who, as a North Dakota Assistant Attorney General and later a private attorney, played a very active role in negotiating the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between 47 states and the major tobacco manufacturers.

The Loveland Award was presented to O'Dea by Vermont Attorney General and NAAG President William Sorrell and Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran. The award presentation took place on Wednesday, June 16th at NAAG's Summer Meeting in Santa Monica, California.

O'Dea was recognized for her leadership while serving as Chair of NAAG's Tobacco Enforcement Working Group for the past two years. In this position, she led the states in enforcing the public health provisions of the Master Settlement Agreement. She communicated continuously with other attorney general offices, coordinating investigations and litigation. She was responsible for the states' communications and negotiations with tobacco manufacturers regarding public health violations. She also is a leader in multi-state efforts to enforce the economic provisions of the Master Settlement Agreement.

Some of Assistant Attorney General O'Dea accomplishments include:

Last fall she organized and chaired a conference in Chicago on so-called "reduced risk" tobacco products. The conference was attended by states, scientists and marketing experts, and was designed to encourage states to work together to prevent a public health deception like the one that occurred with "light" and "low tar" cigarettes. O'Dea invited each of the companies currently marketing such products to attend the conference and explain the scientific basis for their marketing claims.

She led the successful negotiation with participating manufacturers over advertisements in school-versions of newsweeklies. That negotiation resulted in the companies utilizing "selective binding" for Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report to ensure that tobacco advertisements did not appear in classroom versions of those publications. That result was accomplished without litigation, and caused the participating manufacturers to comment that though tough, O'Dea is always respectful and professional to deal with.

More recently, she spearheaded the states' investigation and analysis of U.S. Smokeless Tobacco's extensive sports sponsorship activities as well as Brown & Williamson's "Kool Mixx" product marketing campaign to determine whether these activities violate Master Settlement Agreement prohibitions on youth targeted marketing.

O'Dea was one of the primary drafters of the Master Settlement Agreement model state legislation for use by the states. She is also a vigorous litigator. Maine has been on the forefront of various types of MSA-related litigation. Among these are cases pending in Maine state court involving companies that have tried to undermine or avoid MSA requirements. In addition, she is the lead attorney in a Federal Court action in Maine defending the new state law that closely regulates the delivery of tobacco products sold by internet and telephone tobacco retailers.

In praising O'Dea's contribution, Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe stated, "This award is extremely well-deserved. No one in the nation has worked harder than Melissa O'Dea to ensure that tobacco manufacturers are living up to their legal obligations. Thanks to Melissa's determination and hard work, Maine continues to receive more than $50 million each year under the Master Settlement Agreement."

Rowe added "The State of Maine should be very proud of Assistant Attorney General Melissa O'Dea. She is clearly a national leader and legal expert in the field of tobacco health-related issues."