The tobacco epidemic is a huge public health problem. Almost 600,000 Americans die every year from tobacco related diseases. This death and disease is perpetrated by the tobacco industry, in exchange for profits. Unfortunately, the tobacco industry uses its profits to buy access to government officials and to buy influence over laws.
In the 2016 election cycle, the tobacco industry has contributed over $2.5 million to incumbent representatives for their re-election campaigns. The majority of this money comes from three major tobacco companies; Altria Group ($1.7 million), Reynolds American ($456,000) and Lorillard Tobacco ($356,000).
This is a problem in almost every state: 49 states have candidates who have accepted campaign funds from the tobacco industry. Only Vermont and Washington D.C. have complete delegations that haven’t accepted any money from Big Tobacco.
This is a problem for both parties. Candidates on both sides of the aisle accept campaign funds from the tobacco industry.
This is a problem in the House, the Senate, and the White House. The top ten candidates that accepted the most money in the U.S. House Representatives received a combined total of over $312,000. The top ten in the Senate accepted just under $800,000. Presidential candidates accepted just under $90,000.
Unfortunately, campaign contributions are a problem that seems to be getting worse. In the 2014 election cycle, Big Tobacco contributed $2.3 million to candidates. In 2012, the last presidential election year, the contributions were $2.1 million. While this is far from the peak of campaign contributions in the mid-1990s, it is troubling that the contributions are once again rising. Industries that threaten public health should not control public health policy by holding sway over our elected officials.
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If your representatives HAVE taken tobacco money, you can write, call, or tweet them to explain why it’s important that they stop!