Tobacco Lobby Winning in Texas

An army of tobacco industry lobbyists been hard at work in Texas battling a clean indoor air law and a new formula for taxing spit tobacco. The industry employed 40 lobbyists, seven of whom are former state legislators, to beat back the popular proposals. The smoking ban had gained hard-won support from the state's restaurant association, and enjoyed support among voters, who had already approved public smoking laws in 28 cities within the state. More than half of the Texas House of Representatives had signed on as co-authors of the bill. The other bill would have taxed spit tobacco by weight rather than by retail price, raising an extra $9 million to be put towards paying down the student loans of 450 doctors in exchange for them working in medically underserved areas of the state. Some Republicans argued against the smoking ban by casting smoking as a property right, an industry argument aimed at re-directing attention to secondhand smoke onto a non-health-related topic to help defeat smoking bans. Lobbyists ultimately succeeded in watering down the clean indoor air bill by inserting a slew of exceptions to undermine the intent of the bill, a strategy also linked to the industry: a 1986 Philip Morris strategy document about defeating smoking restrictions states, "Most state and local laws are very stringent when initially proposed. In most cases we are able to water down the final product [so that] penalties are often minimal and the restrictions negligible." Lobbyists stalled the spit tobacco tax measure by blocking it from getting added to the agenda for consideration.