Big Tobacco Has Big Influence in California: Effective Anti-Smoking Advertising, Research, and Legislation All Blunted by Campaign Contributions and Lawsuits8 min read


• Report Criticizes Schwarzenegger and His Predecessors
• 95% of Contributions to Parties and Candidates Went to Republicans in Last Election Cycle

A new report documents how the tobacco industry has influenced California politics with increased campaign contributions and thwarted effective anti-smoking advertising and legislation that would diminish tobacco sales in California including research on tobacco illnesses. This, despite the passage of ballot propositions by the voters setting aside money for such purposes and the heralded Master Settlement Agreement of major litigation by the states which produced billions of dollars for California and other states.

The Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine released on Friday a 151 page report Tobacco Control in California 2003-2007: Missed Opportunities that starts out with the passage by voters in 1988 of Proposition 99, the California Tobacco Tax and Health Protection Act brings us to the present, focusing on the last 5 years. The study concludes that successes in tobacco control in California now are started by local activism and voter initiatives with statewide legislation only following this lead and that local activism is still the key source of movement on this front in California.

In 1988 Proposition 99 was passed by the voters, imposing an additional 50 cents per pack to support early childhood education. Ten years later, in 1998, Proposition 10 raised taxes on cigarettes in California by an additional 50 cents per pack to support early childhood education.

Yet the California budgeted mass media for the very effective anti-smoking programs that was over $45 million per year in fiscal years 2001 and 2002 have fallen to less than half of that since then. Not only did this media funding decline, but, the number of youth prevention messages also declined in the period 2001-2006.

The marketing practices of the tobacco industry in California did not abate. At the same time that California spending on media campaigns was declining, tobacco industry activities including advertising, lower cigarette prices, and greater availability of cigarette promotions associated with youth smoking increased.

Among the study’s other findings:

• While smoking prevalence in California continued its decline (reaching an historic low of 13.3% in 2006), this rate was slower than in earlier years, reflecting the fact that tobacco control efforts in California in the period 2003-2007 continued to drift, with no clear indications that California would regain its international leadership in tobacco control.

• Neither the Schwarzenegger Administration nor the California Legislature sought to divert the Proposition 99 funding allocations, but continued the policy of the Davis administration to emphasize aspects of the California Tobacco Control Program that are not proven to be effective, such as school-based education programs, while moving slowly with those that are effective, particularly a strong media campaign.

• The Administration has continued to shift increasing amounts of funds from the Proposition 99 Research Account away from the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program to the Department of Public Health Cancer Registry, leading to marked reductions in funding for important and innovative tobacco control research.

• In 2003 and again in 2006, the Legislature sold the state’s share of the Master Settlement Agreement payments for immediate revenues (“securitization”) by the tobacco companies through 2030.

• Under Bill Lockyer, the Attorney General’s office has vigorously enforced tobacco industry compliance with the Master Settlement Agreement. Campaigns to end tobacco industry violations of the Master Settlement Agreement (primarily by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company) with regard to youth marketing tactics and youth access to tobacco products were successful. Former Attorney General Lockyer was active in the campaign of a multi-state group of Attorneys General to get smoking out a movies targeted at children; but Attorney General Jerry Brown has not participated in this effort since taking office in 2007.

• The tobacco industry intensified its efforts to influence California politics with its campaign contributions to legislators, legislative candidates, political parties and constitutional officers. The industry steadily increased monies spent on state level political activities in the period 2003-2007, from $4,086,553 in 2003-2004 ($1,083,448 to candidates) to $4,359,205 in 2005-2006 ($1,895,584 to candidates).

• Campaign contributions from the tobacco industry continue to heavily favor Republicans. In 2005-2006, $1,797,484 was contributed to the Republican candidates and officeholders, to the California Republican Party and other Republican controlled committees compared to $98,100 to the Democrats.

• Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed two important tobacco control bills in 2006, a ban on internet sales of cigarettes (SB 1208) and a mandate for health insurance coverage of smoking cessation services (SB 576).

• Six tobacco control measures were passed in the 2007 Session. SB 7 prohibits smoking in any motor vehicle with any minors present, and AB 1467 would have eliminated the remaining exceptions in the original 1994 smoke-free workplaces law (AB 13). The other four bills strengthen youth access laws. AB 1617 would have prohibited the shipping or transporting of cigarettes to individuals in California (another attempt to control internet sales of cigarettes), and SB 624 broadens enforcement of the STAKE (Stop Tobacco Access to Kids) Act from just the Department of Public Health to all law enforcement agencies and increases penalties for violations. The Governor vetoed two of the 2007 tobacco control bills, another ban on internet cigarette sales (AB 1617) and a bill closing loopholes in the original California smoke-free workplaces law (AB 1467).

If there ever was any doubt about the role of campaign contributions by tobacco, the details revealed in this study should cast them aside. First the money. There are many charts and pages devoted to this, but this is what the report encapsulated:

“The partisan divide in campaign contributions is extreme, with Republican candidates receiving 78% of the contributions in the 2005-2006 election cycle and 100% of party contributions in 2005-2006 went to the Republican Party (Figure 8). In the 2003-2004 election cycle, $55,000 was given to the Democratic Party and $624,654 went to the Republican Party. In the 2005-2006 election cycle the Democratic party received no monies from the tobacco industry and the Republican Party received $1,433,300 in contributions. In the 2003-2004 election cycle, the tobacco industry spent $258,694 in campaign contributions to Republican legislators and $132,500 to Democratic legislators. In the 2005-2006 election cycle the tobacco industry spent $316,320 in campaign contributions for Republican legislators and $90,500 for Democratic legislators. In 2003-2004, of the $1,083,448 that was contributed to the Republicans and Democrats, $895,948 went to the Republicans (83%) compared to $187,500 that went to the Democrats (17%). Of the $1,895,584 that was contributed to the Republicans and Democrats in 2005-2006, $1,797,484 went to the Republicans (95%) compared to only $98,100 to Democrats (5%).”

Then the votes:

Legislators were evaluated on a scale of 0 to 10 with a score of 0 representing an extremely pro-tobacco legislator and a score of 10 representing an extremely pro-tobacco control legislator.

Legislators with scores ranging from 0.0 to 3.9 are considered pro-tobacco industry, scores ranging from 4.0 to 6.0 are considered neutral, and scores ranging from 6.1 to 10.0 are considered pro-tobacco control.

In the Senate and in the Assembly in the 2005-2006 Legislative Session, as was true in past sessions studied, the Republicans were very pro-tobacco with an average policy score of 1.03 and the Democrats were very pro-tobacco control with an average policy score of 8.4.

A number of legislators did not accept any tobacco industry campaign contributions during the 2005-2006 legislative cycle. The average tobacco policy score for legislators who did not accept tobacco industry contributions was 8.5, indicating a strong pro-tobacco control position. Four of these individuals were Republicans and 54 were Democrats. Additionally, 39 of these legislators not accepting tobacco industry campaign contributions during the 2005-2006 legislative cycle have never accepted tobacco industry contributions.

The Republican leaders in the Assembly accepted a total of $98,495 in tobacco industry campaign contributions in the 2005-2006 legislative session and received an average tobacco policy score of 0.8. Among the top recipients were Chief Republican Whip Doug La Malfa, Republican Leader George Plescia, Republican Party Whip John J. Benoit , and Republican Party Whip Todd Spitzer. Spitzer was the recipient of the lowest tobacco policy score (0.3), indicating an extreme pro-tobacco policy position. Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia a Republican in a tough race in the 80th Assembly District, received the highest level of tobacco industry contributions, $14,800.

Among the Democratic leadership, no individuals were among the top recipients of tobacco industry campaign contributions. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Assistant Majority Leader Rebecca Cohn in 2005-2006 were the only Democratic leaders in the Assembly who accepted tobacco industry campaign contributions, $3,300 and $500 respectively. The remaining members of the Democratic leadership in the Assembly did not accept tobacco industry contributions and received pro tobacco control policy scores; Assemblywomen Sally Lieber, Karen Bass, and CindyMontanez and Assemblymen Dario Frommer and John Laird have never accepted tobacco industry contributions. With a total of $8,100 in tobacco industry contributions, the Assembly Democratic leadership received an average tobacco policy score of 8.8 indicating a pro-tobacco control position.

In the Senate, Democrats Wesley Chesbro and Deborah Ortiz received the highest tobacco policy scores, both 10, indicating a strong pro-tobacco control policy position. Senator Tom McClintock received the lowest tobacco control policy score of 0.2, indicating a very strong pro-tobacco position. The following Republican Senators all received the second lowest tobacco policy score, 0.3: Roy Ashburn, James Battin, Dennis Hollingsworth, Bob Margett, Charles Poochigian, Robert Dutton, and Bill Morrow. These scores indicate a strong pro-tobacco position for the above-mentioned Senators. Senate Republicans received a pro-tobacco policy score average of 1.0 and Senate Democrats received a pro-tobacco control policy average score of 8.5.

There is a lot more here in this report about the efforts of tobacco companies in California to thwart the will of the voters, to control the outcomes of elections on propositions such as Prop 86 by vastly outspending opponents, and to influence the legislature and the expenditures of funds for anti-smoking campaigns and research. The entire report can be read online: Tobacco Control in California 2003-2007: Missed Opportunities.


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