Big Tobacco's Political Dirty Tricks Hit New Low in California, Arizona, Ohio

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jun. 2 2006

Washington, DC — In the latest examples that the tobacco companies are not the changed, responsible companies they claim to be, tobacco companies are engaging in political dirty tricks in several states aimed at defeating anti-tobacco elected officials and ballot initiatives to require smoke-free workplaces.

In California, The Los Angeles Times today reported that an organization funded by tobacco interests has mailed a flyer to voters falsely claiming that Assemblywoman Judy Chu, who is running for the State Board of Equalization, accepted tobacco campaign contributions and cast pro-tobacco votes when in fact she refuses to accept tobacco contributions and has been a staunch opponent of the industry. In contrast, her opponent, Assemblyman Jerome Horton, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of tobacco contributions in the California Legislature, including $85,000 in contributions since 2000 from Altria, parent company of Philip Morris, the Times reported.

The organization that mailed the flyer, the California Political Empowerment Committee, has received at least $57,000 in contributions from tobacco interests, including the Kraft subsidiary of Altria, the Lorillard Tobacco Company, and smokeless tobacco manufacturer UST. Tobacco companies have an interest in the race because the State Board of Equalization?s responsibilities include regulating cigarette sales.

In Arizona and Ohio, tobacco companies are working to defeat ballot initiatives requiring that all workplaces be smoke-free by sponsoring alternative initiatives that claim to restrict smoking when in fact they would they would roll back existing local smoke-free workplace laws, allow smoking in many workplaces and prevent local governments from passing smoke-free laws in the future. These alternative initiatives are being pitched to voters with blatantly deceptive names such as the Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act and Smoke Less Ohio.

The Arizona Republic reported this week that R.J. Reynolds has contributed $10,000 to the Arizona effort, while R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, the Cigar Association of America and the Retail Tobacco Dealers Association are among supporters of the Ohio effort.

It is the ultimate hypocrisy that the tobacco companies are now trying to use an anti-smoking message to defeat measures to reduce smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, as well as political candidates who support such efforts. It is also a sign of the tobacco companies? desperation regarding the proliferation of tobacco prevention measures, which are being adopted by a growing number of state and local governments and have contributed to significant declines in smoking. The companies realize that the public strongly supports tobacco prevention efforts and their traditional arguments have absolutely no credibility or public support. Instead of trying to debate the merits of these issues, the tobacco companies have concluded the only way they can win is by resorting to sleazy tactics aimed at deceiving voters.

In another recent example in South Carolina, R.J. Reynolds used free alcohol, free cigarettes and scantily clad young women to lure South Carolina bar customers into signing a petition opposing an increase in the state?s lowest in the nation cigarette tax.

We urge voters and elected officials throughout the nation to reject the tobacco industry?s sleazy, deceptive tactics and support proven measures to reduce smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, including strong smoke-free workplace laws, higher tobacco taxes and well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

 

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