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World No Tobacco Day 2014: What makes tobacco different?

Annually, the tobacco industry contributes over $1.6 million to federal candidates and spends approximately $16.6 million lobbying Congress. This money buys the tobacco industry access to government officials and influence over laws.

This is a serious problem, because, there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests.

Many people would argue that politicians accept money from a myriad of sources, including other industries that people may consider unsavory or unhealthy.

What makes tobacco different?

First, tobacco is the only legal product that, when used exactly as intended, kills its users. The WHO provides an equally poignant reason – “Tobacco use is unlike other threats to global health. Infectious diseases do not employ multinational public relations firms. There are no front groups to promote the spread of cholera. Mosquitoes have no lobbyists.” Read more here> Industries that threaten public health should not control public health policy.

In 2012, California provided an example of the power of industry interference. During the presidential primary, there was an additional question on the ballot about raising the cigarette tax by $1.00. Tax increases are one of the most effective ways to decrease smoking. In a poll taken a few weeks before the vote, most Californians supported the increase. In the ensuing weeks, the tobacco industry led a $46.8 million dollar campaign to defeat the measure. Proposition 29 failed by a slim margin, and the tobacco tax was not increased. Read more here> and here>

When the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the only global public health treaty, was being drafted, tobacco industry influence on public health policy was a big concern. Therefore, the FCTC includes a section, Article 5.3, on protection from industry interference. One of the guidelines to aid countries in implementing this article strongly suggests “prohibiting tobacco industry contributions to political parties, candidates, or campaigns.”

While the U.S. has not ratified the FCTC, ASH encourages politicians to voluntarily comply with its guidelines. We are eager to announce that at this point, many have.

This year, on World No Tobacco Day, ASH is excited to certify 193 Senators and Congressman as “Free from Tobacco Money.” We are offering this certification as a public thank you to representatives who have not accepted campaign contributions from the tobacco industry in at least the last ten years. We sincerely thank them and encourage them to continue to do their part in the fight against tobacco. We hope that you will reach out to thank them as well! For the list of representatives and sample emails and tweets, please see here>

Thank you for taking action, and Happy World No Tobacco Day!

Come back to our site before the November elections to visit our Political Contributions Map. We will be updating it throughout the 2014 election cycle! See it here>