Big Tobacco Spends Record $12 Million to Deceive Oregon Voters

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

Nov. 2 2007

Washington, D.C. — Showing again that they will do whatever it takes to protect their profits at the expense of our children, the Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds tobacco companies have increased their spending to a record $12 million to defeat an Oregon ballot initiative that would increase the state cigarette tax and fund children’s health care. Big Tobacco’s spending more than doubles the previous record for any Oregon ballot measure and is nearly four times the $3.3 million that proponents of the initiative has raised.

According to media reports, Philip Morris spent an additional $1.1 million this week, bringing its total to about $7 million, while R.J. Reynolds added about $150,000, for a total of $4.9 million. The tobacco companies are seeking to defeat Ballot Measure 50, the Healthy Kids Oregon initiative, which would increase the state cigarette tax by 84.5 cents per pack and fund expansion of children’s health coverage and tobacco prevention programs.

Most of the industry’s funds are being spent on deceptive television advertising. Oregon voting, which is done by mail, concludes November 6.

Media reports have regularly exposed the industry’s deceptive tactics, including creation of a front group – Oregonians Against the Blank Check – that is funded entirely by RJR; RJR’s distribution of a mass-mailed letter that appeared to come from a first-grade teacher but was mailed from the office of the company’s lobbyist, and false claims in TV ads.

R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris are fighting Measure 50 because they know that increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective strategies to reduce smoking, especially among kids. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent. An 84.5-cent cigarette tax increase in Oregon would:

  • Prevent more than 29,000 Oregon kids from becoming smokers
  • Spur more than 15,000 current adult smokers to quit for good
  • Save more than 13,000 Oregonians from premature, smoking-caused deaths
  • Produce more than $662 million in long-term health care savings
  • Raise more than $94 million a year to expand health care coverage to more than 100,000 Oregon kids.

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:

Nov. 1, 2007

Big Tobacco plans to continue barrage of ads
Companies pay $12 million to try to stop Measure 50

[Salem] Statesman Journal

Nov. 1, 2007

In Final Days, Tobacco Companies Up Spending in Oregon Tax Fight

The Associated Press

 

Media Contacts