In Idaho, Big Tobacco Spends Big Bucks to Buy Influence
Lawmakers must choose: Protect kids or protect industry profits
Posted by: Editor | Feb 17, 2012
From Idaho comes the latest evidence that the tobacco industry will go to great lengths — and spare no expense — to protect its profits and defeat measures proven to keep kids from smoking.
According to a report in the Idaho Falls Post Register, the Altria Group, the nation’s largest tobacco company and parent of Philip Morris USA, spent more money lobbying Idaho officials last year than any other group. Altria spent $165,076 lobbying in the state in 2011 — it’s the only group to spend more than $100,000, and its total is 82 percent more than the next biggest spender.
Big Tobacco is spending big as the Idaho Legislature debates a proposed $1.25 per pack increase in the state cigarette tax. Increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids. And the tobacco companies know it, as they’ve admitted in their own internal documents.
Because the science is against them, the industry and its allies are spreading myths about tobacco taxes, claiming that they’re not a reliable source of revenue and hurt retailers.
Every state that has significantly increased its cigarette tax has enjoyed a substantial increase in revenue, even while reducing smoking. And studies show that increasing the cigarette tax does not reduce the number of convenience stores or overall retail employment.
The reality is that tobacco companies oppose cigarette taxes for the same reason public health groups support them: They know it will reduce smoking.
Unfortunately, Big Tobacco’s big bucks are having an influence in Boise. “Obviously it does,” Rep. Dennis Lake, sponsor of the cigarette tax bill, told the Post Register. “We’re still struggling trying to find the votes to get the bill out of committee. I think the (legislative) body is being lobbied heavily.”
Idaho’s kids, of course, lack the resources to match Philip Morris and need elected leaders to stand up for them by increasing the cigarette tax. So lawmakers, whose side are you on: Idaho’s kids or Big Tobacco?