The November 6, 2007 election brought a stinging defeat to Oregon's cigarette tax increase. The proposal aimed to raise the state's cigarette tax by 84.5 cents a pack to pay for health insurance for about 100,000 additional poor Oregon children who currently have no coverage. Measure 50, as the tax was called, went down by a wide 60-40% margin.
Most people don't know it, but cigarettes sold in some states are now more dangerous than ones sold in other states. Deaths and damage from cigarette-caused fires have motivated New York, Vermont, California and other states to enact laws in recent years requiring that only fire-safe cigarettes be sold in their states.
What was Brown & Williamson's "Project Big Boy"? CMD launched the TobaccoWiki project to answer questions just like that (the answers are usually not very pretty) by enlisting citizens like you to mine the millions of pages of previously-secret, internal tobacco industry documents now posted on the Internet. Spending even a few minutes to find an interesting nugget of information about what this project involved would be helpful, so why not give it a spin?
Cigarette maker Altria/Philip Morris (PM) recently announced that it is moving its New York headquarters to Richmond, Virginia, and that it will end its corporate sponsorship of the arts in New York. Predictably, New York arts organizations are crying over the loss of cigarette dollars. These organizations sadly believe that their acceptance of PM dollars has been benign. In truth, these organizations have helped PM advance its credibility and legitimacy with policymakers, and have done tremendous harm to the country.
What is "acetoin," and what is it doing in cigarettes? Tobacco companies inform the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (but not the public) about the 599 potential additives they can put in cigarettes. We've got that list, but we don't have any explanations about what these chemicals are. Acetoin is on the list, but we don't know what it is, or why they put it in cigarettes.
Some PR executives take citizens for complete idiots.
Almost three weeks ago a local branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME) called on the University of California to dump the giant PR firm Hill & Knowlton (H&K). In a letter to the university, AFSCME and other groups pointed to H&K's work for the tobacco industry, its attack on research pointing to the impact of exposure to lead on children, and its work for "some of the worst human rights abusing states in the world." In a statement emailed to the trade publication PR Week, H&K's Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Thorne claimed that the union's criticism "is directed to work done more than 50 years ago. While we disagree that H&K ever was engaged in any improper conduct, our current firm policy is that we will not provide services in any way related to tobacco, anywhere in the world."
It may seem incongruous to the average person why Philip Morris (PM) would back legislation to restrict its business, yet that is what PM seems to be is doing by supporting S. 625, the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act," the bill that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products. After all, PM has a corporate mandate to increase profits for its shareholders, so PM would not support this legislation if it wasn't going to benefit its bottom line, and it is practically an axiom in public health that whatever benefits PM's bottom line is going to be bad for public health. That's what makes this bill especially troubling to people who study tobacco industry documents; it is clear that PM had a hand in crafting it. That alone sounds like a lot, but PM's efforts to enact it are clearly delivering the company a hefty side-benefit of causing dissent within the tobacco control community over its passage.