Big Tobacco Bankrolls Fight Against California Measure to Reduce Smoking, Save Lives
Big bucks will spread big lies about cigarette tax initiative
Posted by: Editor | Mar 6, 2012
Big tobacco companies already have coughed up nearly $15 million to try to kill a California ballot initiative that would boost the state's cigarette tax by $1 to fund cancer research and tobacco-prevention programs.
"Shame on them," says Dr. Richard Gray, president of the American Heart Association Western States Affiliate. "But we aren’t surprised — they will always put their profits before the health of millions of Californians."
According to the campaign-finance watchdog group Maplight, the leading contributor to the tobacco industry’s assault on the proposition is Altria Group, parent company of Philip Morris, followed by Reynolds American Inc. Though the committee opposing the referendum calls itself "Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending," all of its money comes from tobacco companies, public records show.
Voters can expect the tobacco companies to be just as deceptive in their arguments against the initiative. The reality is the companies oppose the initiative for the same reasons health advocates support it: It will prevent kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit.
Referendum supporters have so far raised $3.2 million, with about half of that coming from the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the remainder primarily from public health groups.
All across the country, the story is similar. In Idaho, where lawmakers are considering a hike in cigarette taxes, Altria spent more money lobbying state officials last year than any other interest group.
Tobacco companies blow a lot of smoke, but it's always clear whose side they're on in public health battles over tobacco use and its deadly consequences: Their own.