Tobacco Lobby Political Influence on US State Legislatures in the 1990s (2001)

Authors: Micheal Givel and Stanton Glantz


Background: Throughout the 1990s the tobacco lobby was a potent political force in US state legislatures advancing its pro-tobacco agenda.

Objective: To describe the market and political motivations of the tobacco lobby and the strategies they use to achieve these goals in US state legislatures.

Design: This study is a content analysis and summary overview of recently released historical tobacco industry documents; tobacco related government documents; and recent state tobacco control policy reports.

Results: In the 1990s, the tobacco lobby engaged in a comprehensive and aggressive political effort in state legislatures to sell tobacco with the least hindrance using lobbying, the media, public relations, front groups, industry allies, and contributions to legislators. These efforts included campaigns to neutralise clean indoor air legislation, minimise tax increases, and preserve the industry’s freedom to advertise and sell tobacco. The tobacco lobby succeeded in increasing the number of states that enacted state pre-emption of stricter local tobacco control laws and prevented the passage of many state tobacco control policies. Public health advocates were able to prevent pre-emption and other pro-tobacco policies from being enacted in several states.

Conclusions: The tobacco lobby is a powerful presence in state legislatures. Because of the poor public image of the tobacco lobby, it seeks to wield this power quietly and behind the scenes. State and local health advocates, who often have high public credibility, can use this fact against the tobacco lobby by focusing public attention on the tobacco lobby’s political influence and policy goals and expose links between the tobacco lobby and its legislative supporters.

Read more: Tobacco Control