Over the past decade, “Big Tobacco” spent over $100 million to influence elections and legislative policy in California, according to a report, Tobacco Money in California Politics. The report can be read in full at the Center For Tobacco Policy and Organizing site. A searchable database of campaign contributions on the site provides precise figures about the campaign contributions tobacco companies are making to individual California state assembly members and Senators.
9.3 million was spent on campaign contributions and lobbying during the 2009-2010 election cycle. 48 percent of California’s state legislators — 59 members out of 122 — have received campaign contributions from the tobacco industry (a total that was the same in previous election cycles). More than $62 million was spent to oppose Proposition 86, a 2006 ballot initiative that would have increased California’s tobacco tax by $2.60 a pack, to pay for pay for “additional hospital funding, health coverage of children, nursing education, anti-smoking education programs, and funding for nonprofit clinics.” Proposition 86 lost by a narrow margin.
Further, Philip Morris USA Inc. alone spent more than $750,000 on lobbying from April through June of 2009, the second quarter of that year: This was a “record amount for lobbying expenditures in one quarter by any tobacco interest over the last decade,” according to a press release from the American Lung Association about theeport. Incidentally, it was during those very three months that the California legislature voted on two budget bills that were of more than a little interest to the tobacco industry. One bill contained a tobacco tax increase, while the other bill was also about tobacco taxes (and was already moving forward in the legislative process) — tobacco companies are out to protect their interests, not to mention their profits.
Of all special interests, tobacco companies ranked “near the top” in total spending on campaign contributions and lobbying, says the report.
Nonetheless, in this same time period, smoking rates in California have kept falling and more communities passed policies meant to reduce the impact of smoking in California. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the state’s adult smoking rate is 11.9 percent, a record low. (Money doesn’t all buy results, it’s heartening to know.)
I’m originally from California and, even though I grew up in the years prior to the passing of a anti-smoking legislation, I remember a general attitude of “why would anyone deliberately endanger their health and smoke”? Much more recently, and thankfully, smoking has been banned from restaurants, indoor public places and workplaces (and in casinos) in New Jersey where we live. In New York, it’s illegal to smoke not only in restaurants but on train platforms and parks and beaches.
A recent study has shown that babies admitted to hospital with bronchiolitis from a household where a parent smokes are twice as likely to need oxygen therapy than babies whose parents do not smoke — and they’re five times as likely to need mechanical ventilation. Does it need to be said again that smoking is not good for you, or for those around you?
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