Tobacco industry activity in New Mexico

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

A 1988 Tobacco Institute political strategy document describes how the tobacco industry operates politically in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. The title, "Proactive Legislation," refers to laws that the tobacco industry drafts and pushes through state legislatures in order to stop public health tobacco control activity at the local level.

"Proactive" legislation

Colorado provides an example of how the industry acted in the other listed Western states as well. In Colorado, the tobacco industry noted that widespread sentiment existed for a statewide smoking law, and that even the industry's usual ally, the Colorado Restaurant Association, favored such legislation. To head off this pending disaster, the industry planned to introduce a weak statewide smoking restriction measure "with moderate provisions" that would "institutionalize certain smokers' rights and dramatically weaken one of the strongest statewide GASP organizations in the country." The then-governor of Colorado (2003), Bill Owens, was identified in the document as "a friendly member of the House Local Government Committee (consistently favorable to tobacco interests)" who could "offer a substitute bill with desireable provisions with a good chance of having it adopted and passed out of committee..."

The writer of the memo describes the industry's strategy:

"Publicly, tobacco industry advocates should express the position that NO smoking restriction law is desireable. If pressed, they should acknowledge that uniform regulation throughout the state is preferable to the state of confusion which now exists. Privately, our lobbyists would of course encourage legislators' support of the substitute bill."[1]

Interference with smoking ordinance efforts

A 1999 internal Philip Morris (PM) email shows the outside world PM's exhaustive, behind-the-scenes efforts to defeat a local smoke-free ordinance in Santa Fe, New Mexico proposed in 1999. The email reveals many of PM's strategies for fighting these measures while remaining unseen. Some tactics include:

1) Introducing many confusing amendments to the ordinance and getting a city council member to carry them.

2) Claiming afterwards that the ordinance is now so complicated that it must be postponed, sent to a work session or requires extra study.

3) Inserting "ventilation language" into the measure.

4) Getting employees of Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds tobacco companies to flood city hall with calls against the ordinance.

5) Placing letters to the editor and op-eds in local papers.

6) Placing petitions in bars and restaurants,

7) Involving Philip Morris's front group, the National Smokers Alliance (NSA) in protesting the ordinance,

8) Keeping lobbyists from several cigarette manufacturing companies "on the ground" in the town where such a measure is being considered.

The email shows, however, that even this level of corporate interference can't always diminish the obvious popularity of smoke-free laws. The email indicates that despite their best efforts, the cigarette companies were still losing in Santa Fe:

"Councilors say they have been getting overwhelmed with calls, but still the yes calls outweigh the no. Both PM and RJR are calling...We have a full program going on here--but it doesn't look too good."

The measure ultimately passed in Santa Fe despite all the clandestine and invasive political interference from cigarette companies.[2]

Related Sourcewatch articles

External resources

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  1. Stan Boman, Tobacco Institute Proactive Legislation Memorandum. June 27, 1988. 4 pp. Bates No. TIOK0019819/9822
  2. Ginny Corwin Help! Santa Fe Email. August 20, 1999. 1 page. Bates No. 2072340866