Tobacco companies spend millions of dollars lobbying in the U.S. every year in an attempt to weaken, delay or kill life-saving public health policies.
In 2022, while we continued to face a global respiratory pandemic, tobacco companies spent $29,751,276 at the federal level attempting to weaken public health and tobacco control policies, marking a 5% increase compared to their spending in 2021 (source).
As of April 24, 2023, tobacco companies have already expended $6,982,475 this year at the federal level alone (source).
The tobacco industry has 213 lobbyists registered at the federal level in 2023, 80.75% of whom are former government employees likely to have increased access to highly influential people (source). Former government employees now working for tobacco companies can permeate the House of Representatives, the Senate, and our Federal Agencies, to the detriment of public health.
At the state level for 2023, a total of 927 lobbying registrations for the tobacco industry were identified, involving 856 lobbyists or lobbying firms.
Almost two-thirds (577) of the registrations represented a company that is owned by or has a licensing agreement with adjudicated racketeers, including Altria, Reynolds American, Inc (RAI), and Juul. This is a crucial element to note, as lobbying is not inherently problematic; the problem arises when you’re lobbying on behalf of an industry dominated by federally adjudicated racketeers, especially those whose products kill when used exactly as intended.
Altria (previously known as Philip Morris USA) had a total of 293 registrations of lobbyists or lobbying firms, covering all 50 states and DC. Juul, with which Altria has an irrevocable licensing agreement, had a total of 95 registrations of lobbyists or firms covering 39 states and DC. Reynolds American had a total of 189 registrations of lobbyists or lobbying firms covering 49 states and DC. Most tobacco industry lobbyists and lobbying firms were also registered to serve a variety of other clients.
Notably, public records indicate that 12 states and DC require or allow lobbying firms to register, instead of individual lobbyists. Because lobbying firms often employ many lobbyists, the tobacco industry may be able to mask from public view the actual number and names of individual lobbyists who are working on their behalf in those states.
The ASH Lobbyist Tracker focuses on publicly-available state-level registrations, with links provided to each official state webpage. A spreadsheet of the data found in the following map can be reviewed here.
Click on each state to see the pop up with a top-level break down.
Then click More (or the state list in the side bar) for a detailed break down and sources.
Changes in State-Level Lobbying Registrations Since 2021
Since ASH began tracking tobacco industry lobbying in 2021, registrations have decreased in some states and increased in others. Among all states and the District of Columbia, 27 had fewer registrations in 2023 than in 2021, while 17 had more and seven had the same.
Overall, state-level tobacco industry lobbying registrations decreased by 74, from a total of 1,001 in 2021 to a total of 927 in 2023. Most of this decline was due to Juul, which hired 43 fewer lobbyists and lobbying firms in 2023 than in 2021. Several other tobacco companies, including Altria and RAI, also reduced their total lobbying registrations, while others, including Swisher International and Swedish Match, were increased.
Why Tobacco Lobbyists and Firms are Untrustworthy
Under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a law meant to prosecute organized crime, the Department of Justice charged several tobacco companies with conspiring to conceal the health risks and the addictiveness of cigarettes in 1999 (source).
The U.S. Government successfully proved that tobacco companies continued to act fraudulently at the time of the case and would likely continue to do so in the future. The companies found guilty of racketeering are Philip Morris (re-branded as Altria following this case), RJ Reynolds, British American Tobacco, Brown and Williamson Tobacco, Lorillard Tobacco, and the Liggett Group.
A primary tactic of the tobacco industry is to build networks and alliances to interfere in public policy (source). Therefore, many tobacco industry lobbyists who officially represent companies, associations or outlets that are not specifically part of the federal RICO case are likely to work closely with those who are.
Policymakers should not trust information provided by lobbyists who work for federally adjudicated racketeers or their allies. Policymakers should also be wary of lobbyists working in the interest of inherently defective products – there is no safe use of cigarettes, they kill when used as intended.
In addition, it is important to be aware that most tobacco industry lobbyists and lobbying firms serve a variety of other clients. Civic-minded organizations can avoid inherent conflicts of interest by refusing to employ any lobbyist or firm representing the tobacco industry.
How Advocates Can Use the ASH Lobbyist Tracker
This compiled data shines a light on the scope of tobacco lobbyists and tobacco lobbying firms in each U.S. state, ensuring elected officials, advocates, and media know who they are and not to trust their “advice” or opinions on public health.
There is an irreconcilable conflict between tobacco companies and public health.
Involving tobacco companies in the regulation of their own products not only undermines public health but also violates the global standards for tobacco regulation laid out in the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3 (source).
Tobacco companies must be actively excluded from policymaking, and to do that, you must first know who they are. This tracker data show who cannot be trusted to put forth good public health policy.
Learn more about other tactics tobacco companies use to infiltrate public health policymaking in ASH’s U.S. Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2021 here> (ASH Index 2023 is coming later this year!)
ASH and partners hosted a webinar to discuss tobacco industry lobbying in the U.S. Watch the recording below.
This project stems from a similar online tracking project in Oklahoma used by advocates and policymakers to help raise awareness of tobacco industry interference in their state. Inspired by that successful grassroots initiative, ASH and Doug Matheny of the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Oklahoma Stephenson Cancer Center researched the issue on a national scale to provide this valuable tool to all advocates and policymakers across the United States.
Contact Us with Additions
Not all tobacco lobbyists are employed by a known major tobacco company. If you know of tobacco lobbyists in your state or region that we missed, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with that information so we can update our Tracker Data accordingly. Thank you!