Big Tobacco’s Latest Dirty Trick: Deceiving Oregon Voters

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Oct. 8 2007

Washington, D.C. - In the latest example that the tobacco companies have not changed and continue to put profit before health, Big Tobacco and its bag of dirty tricks have descended on Oregon in an effort to defeat a November ballot initiative that would increase the state cigarette tax and fund children's health care. R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris have so far spent at least $6.6 million – a record for an Oregon ballot measure – to defeat Measure 50, the Healthy Kids Oregon initiative, according to media reports.

The tobacco companies' money is being spent on highly deceptive tactics that have been exposed by the Oregon media:

  • R.J. Reynolds paid for, wrote and distributed a mass-mailed letter that looked to have been sent by a first grade teacher in Salem , but in fact was mailed from the office of a Reynolds lobbyist.
  • R.J. Reynolds and parent company Reynolds American have tried to hide their role in opposing the initiative by creating a front group called Oregonians Against the Blank Check. At least six Oregon TV stations refused to run one of Reynolds' ads until the company revised them to include a tag line stating it was the sole funder of the ads.
  • Oregonian media have repeatedly exposed false claims in R.J. Reynolds' ads against the initiative, including a false claim that most of the money would not be used for children's health care.
  • Philip Morris funded an unsuccessful lawsuit to block Oregon voters from voting on the initiative.

R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris are fighting Measure 50 because it would raise the cigarette tax by 84.5 cents per pack, which they know is a highly effective strategy to reduce smoking, especially among kids. The tobacco companies are well aware that voters strongly support cigarette tax increases, especially when used to fund important programs like children's health care. So they've concluded that their only chance to defeat this initiative is to spend vast sums to carry out political dirty tricks and deceive voters. Each company has spent about $3.3 million so far against the initiative, according to media reports.

Opposition by Big Tobacco is one of the best arguments why Oregon voters should support Measure 50. Voters should reject the tobacco industry's lies and support Measure 50 for the very same reason Big Tobacco opposes it: It will prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, thereby saving many lives.

These Oregon activities continue the tobacco industry's long history of political dirty tricks. Last year, tobacco companies spent more than $80 million to oppose state ballot initiatives to increase tobacco taxes and require smoke-free workplaces and public places. In Arizona and Ohio , R.J. Reynolds tried unsuccessfully to defeat smoke-free ballot measures by sponsoring alternate initiatives that would have allowed smoking to continue in many workplaces, but had misleading names like the Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act and Smoke Less Ohio.

Links to media clips regarding the tobacco companies' recent Oregon activities:

Oct. 3, 2007

Campaign bucks from big tobacco hit records

Cigarette companies ante up $6.6 million – so far – to try to defeat a tax increase intended for children's health

The Oregonian

Sept. 28, 2007

R.J. Reynolds spends $4.5 million on anti-Measure 50 advertisements

Two sides debate the money trail regarding the proposed law

Oregon Daily Emerald

Sept. 24, 2007

Judge rejects bid to block vote on Oregon cigarette tax

The Associated Press

Sept. 12, 2007

Reynolds tweaks ads against cigarette tax

Measure 50 - After stations hold off running the spots, the tobacco maker clarifies it's paying for them

The Oregonian

 

Media Contacts