Tobacco Industry Still Kicking Ash

Now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to start regulating tobacco, you might think that the tobacco industry has finally been brought to heel. The industry's activity in California shows that's far from the case. On the very day that the U.S. House of Representatives approved the legislation giving FDA authority over tobacco, the tobacco industry sent e-mails to California legislators inviting them to a "cigar mixer." Philip Morris also carried out a successful campaign in the notoriously cash-strapped state to defeat an additional cigarette tax that would have helped pay for state-funded health care and higher education, even though 30 other states now have higher taxes than California. Many of the groups who opposed the tax hike -- like chambers of commerce and anti-tax groups -- have histories of accepting tobacco industry largesse. For years, tobacco companies have been working to convince the public they've changed, supposedly for the better, but if California is any indicator, no real change is on the horizon.