Tobacco Companies Spending $84 Million to Mislead Voters and Oppose Ballot Initiatives to Reduce Smoking, Save Lives

Nov. 1 2006

Washington, DC — Led by R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, tobacco companies have spent at least $84 million to oppose state ballot initiatives that would increase cigarette taxes, fund tobacco prevention programs and require smoke-free workplaces and public places, according to state campaign contribution reports. The total is likely to increase before election day.

The tobacco industry is spending most heavily to oppose ballot initiatives in California and Missouri that would increase cigarette taxes and fund tobacco prevention and other health care programs and ballot initiatives in Arizona and Ohio to require smoke-free workplaces. In all four states, the opposition campaigns are funded almost completely by tobacco interests. Voters will also decide tobacco-related ballot initiatives in Florida, Nevada and South Dakota.

The bulk of the industry money is being spent on television ads and other tactics designed to deceive voters. In Arizona and Ohio, R.J. Reynolds (RJR) is trying to defeat smoke-free ballot initiatives by sponsoring alternative initiatives that claim to restrict smoking when in fact they would allow smoking in many restaurants and other workplaces, roll back existing local smoke-free laws and prevent local governments from passing smoke-free laws in the future.

These alternative initiatives are being pitched to voters with blatantly deceptive names that sound like the real initiatives. The public health-supported initiatives are known as Smoke-Free Arizona and SmokeFree Ohio, while the RJR-backed initiatives are called the Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act and Smoke Less Ohio.

“There’s no better evidence that the tobacco companies value profits over lives and health than the fact that they are spending $84 million to oppose proven measures to reduce smoking and save lives,” said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The tobacco companies are well aware that voters strongly support these measures. So they’ve concluded that the only chance they have to defeat these initiatives is to spend vast sums to deceive and confuse voters. Voters should support these initiatives for the very same reasons Big Tobacco opposes them: They will keep kids from smoking and help more smokers quit, thereby saving many lives.”

The need for these initiatives is clear. Numerous scientific studies have found that higher tobacco taxes and well-funded state tobacco prevention programs are highly effective at preventing kids from smoking and helping smokers quit. In June, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report that concluded there is no longer any scientific debate that secondhand smoke causes premature death and serious disease, including lung cancer and heart disease, and that only comprehensive smoke-free policies provide effective protection.

The tobacco companies have spent the most money to oppose the following ballot initiatives:

Arizona Proposition 201, the Smoke-Free Arizona initiative, would make all Arizona workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free and protect the right of all Arizona workers and the public to breathe clean air. R.J. Reynolds has spent at least $8.5 million to oppose Prop 201 and support Proposition 206, the fake smoke-free initiative. The Arizona Daily Star estimates that RJR’s spending amounts to $1.40 for every man, woman and child in Arizona.

California Proposition 86 would increase California’s cigarette tax by $2.60 per pack and use the revenue to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs and other health programs such as health insurance for children, disease prevention, medical research and emergency room care. Tobacco interests have spent nearly $65 million to oppose Prop 86, including $37.7 million from Philip Morris and its parent company Altria and $27.2 million from R.J. Reynolds.

Missouri Amendment 3 would increase Missouri’s cigarette tax by 80 cents, from 17 cents to 97 cents per pack, and increase the tax on other tobacco products by 20 percent. The revenues would fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs and other health initiatives. Tobacco companies have spent at least $5.1 million against the initiative, with R.J. Reynolds contributing the bulk of the money.

Ohio Issue 5, the SmokeFree Ohio initiative, would change state law to make all Ohio workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free and protect the right of all workers and the public to breathe clean air. R.J. Reynolds has spent at least $5.4 million to oppose Issue 5 and support Issue 4, the fake smoke-free initiative that would amend the Ohio Constitution.

Other tobacco-related initiatives on the November 7 ballot include:

Arizona Proposition 203 would increase Arizona’s cigarette tax by 80 cents per pack (and also increase the tax on other tobacco products) and utilize the revenue to fund early childhood development programs.

Florida Amendment 4 would require the Florida Legislature to set aside 15 percent of the state’s annual tobacco settlement payments to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, restoring funding for what was once one of the nation’s best tobacco prevention programs.

Nevada Question 5, the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, will protect Nevada workers and families from secondhand smoke by prohibiting smoking in restaurants, grocery stores, shopping malls, other retail establishments and bars that serve food. It also gives local governments the authority to pass tougher smoke-free laws. Opponents are advocating a much weaker initiative, Question 4.

South Dakota Initiated Measure 2 would increase South Dakota’s cigarette tax by $1 per pack and the tax on other tobacco products from 10 percent to 35 percent of the wholesale price. This new revenue would fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, property tax relief, education enhancement and health care.

 

Media Contacts