Tobacco's Dirty Tricks

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Tobacco companies are the engineers behind the scenes keeping the trains running on time for the opposition in your town. The problem for Big Tobacco is that it has no credibility with the public. So tobacco companies have developed a system of front groups and allies to allow them to stay in the shadows and have others carry their message publicly. The industry then arms these front groups with strategies and tactics to spoil smokefree air campaigns.

They have been at it for decades. Big Tobacco and its allies are still hard at work trying to prevent communities from passing smokefree policies. They promote ventilation alternatives, which even they know will not protect health. They spew false economic claims that businesses will lose profits, so that policymakers will be scared away from passing smokefree ordinances. They lobby for preemption laws that strip control away from local governments, where smokefree advocates are most successful.

You may say, "But the tobacco industry isn't here in my town." But don't be fooled - the tobacco industry is everywhere. Though you may never see a tobacco industry representative, they are everywhere that tobacco is sold - no town is too small. Big Tobacco's bottom line is at stake in every smokefree campaign.

Why Does the Tobacco Industry Fight Smokefree Laws?

The bottom line is that smokefree laws result in a decline in the consumption of tobacco products, an increase in the cessation rate among smokers, and an overall decline in the social acceptability of smoking.

This all spells bad news for tobacco industry profits and explains why Big Tobacco is so highly motivated to oppose smokefree laws and to strip away control from local policymakers on this issue. Big Tobacco is fighting a war of attrition to maintain an environment in which its customers can consume its products constantly in any place and at any time. Don't just take our word for it. Here's what Big Tobacco had to say in a once-secret industry document:

"Financial impact of smoking bans will be tremendous - three to five fewer cigarettes per day per smoker will reduce annual manufacturer profits a billion dollars plus per year."
"A Smokers' Alliance: draft," Philip Morris internal document, July 1, 1993. Bates Nos. 2025771934-2025771995.

Now that you have a better idea of why Big Tobacco is so highly motivated to undermine smokefree policies, educate yourself about what to expect. Familiarize yourself with common arguments and how to respond.

Learn about Big Tobacco's front groups and allies, and prepare for the strategies and tactics the opposition typically uses in the various stages of a smokefree air campaign to stop local activity.