Monday, August 24, 2009

Big Tobacco Outspends Health Groups 7 to 1 in 2009

Pro-Tobacco groups spend $1.25 million for lobbying in six months. Outspending pro-health groups 7:1 in 2009.

Pro-tobacco corporations spent a record $1.25 million in the first half of 2009 lobbying in opposition to the increase in the cigarette tax and the smoke-free workplace legislation, according to reports submitted to the Government Accountability Board (GAB). Pro-health organizations spent $172,835 lobbying for these measures during the same period- a ratio of seven to one.

The tobacco tax, smoke-free legislation, and tobacco prevention and control funding were all key issues during the legislative session.

While the tax increase and smoke-free workplace legislation passed both houses, tobacco prevention and control funding was reduced by 55%.

The two major pro-tobacco corporations, Altria- Philip Morris (Marlboro) and Reynolds American (manufacturer of Camels, Kool and Winston) spent a total of $985,000 in the first six months of the legislative session. In their GAB reports, the companies stated their efforts were in opposition to the tax increase of cigarettes.

The cigarette manufacturers’ lobbying reports also stated that a substantial majority of their lobbying costs were not in payment for lobbyists’ fees. Altria reported $462,000 and Reynolds reported $300,257 in expenses that were not detailed. The GAB allows these costs for research, public relations (to urge the public to influence state legislation) and volunteers’ expenses.

Overall, Altria ranked second in expenditures among lobbyists in this period and Reynolds American ranked sixth. The highest ranking pro-health organizations were the Wisconsin Medical Society which ranked 18th and the American Cancer Society which was 62nd.

Organizations primarily opposing the smoke-free workplace legislation included the Tavern League of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Association of Music and Amusement Operators.

The leading pro-health organizations, in order of their expenditure, were American Cancer Society, Smoke Free Wisconsin, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

Expenditures by Altria may be higher than reported. According to the GAB report, 163 hours of lobbying services were reported by Essie Kammer Group but without payment. Fees for Altria’s other primary lobbyists, former Acting Governor Schreiber and Tavern League lobbyist Scott Stenger, ranged between $47,000 and $50,000 for a similar number of hours worked.

The tobacco tax increase takes effect on September 1, 2009 and the all Wisconsin workplaces go smoke-free on July 5, 2010. According to a recent WI Department of Health Services’ survey one in five adults in Wisconsin regularly smoke.

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