Tobacco companies spend millions of dollars lobbying in the U.S. every year. In 2020, while we faced a global respiratory pandemic, tobacco companies spent $28,156,312 at the federal level attempting to weaken public health and tobacco control policies (source). As of July 23, 2021, they’ve already spent $13,700,000 in 2021 (source).
At the federal level, the tobacco industry has 236 lobbyists registered in 2021, 78.39% of whom are former government employees likely to have more access to highly influential people (source). They can permeate the House of Representatives, the Senate, and our Federal Agencies.
At the state level for 2021, a total of 1001 lobbying registrations for the tobacco industry were identified, involving at least 925 lobbyists or lobbying firms*. About two-thirds (639) of the registrations represented a company owned wholly or in part by adjudicated racketeers, including Altria and Reynolds American, Inc (RAI).
Altria (previously known as Philip Morris USA) had a total of 300 registered lobbyists or lobbying firms, covering all 50 states and DC. Juul, of which Altria owns a 35% stake, employed a total of 138 registered lobbyists or firms covering 49 states and DC. Reynolds American had a total of 201 registered lobbyists or lobbying firms covering 49 states. Most tobacco industry lobbyists and lobbying firms also serve a variety of other clients.
Notably, public records indicate that 13 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. An excel 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.
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.
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.
This tool helps shine a light on the tobacco lobbyists and tobacco lobbying firms in each state, in turn ensuring elected officials 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 in order to do that, you must first know who they are. This tracker will show public health advocates who are allies in public health and who cannot be trusted to put forth good policy.
Learn more about other tactics tobacco companies use to infiltrate public health policy making in ASH’s U.S. Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020 here> (ASH Index 2021 coming November 4, 2021!)
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 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 accordingly. Thank you!
*Updated 12/9/21 with additional information, from original publication of “994 lobbying registrations for the tobacco industry were identified, involving at least 918 lobbyists or lobbying firms.”