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Study: Lawmakers Should Reject Tobacco Company Interference

      Oklahoma City – A study published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Tobacco Regulatory Science found most Americans think lawmakers should not trust tobacco companies and should reject their efforts to interfere in the lawmaking process. The study is based on polling of 2,010 U.S. adults in May 2017 by the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center at the OU Medicine Stephenson Cancer Center.

      The study found that only 27.4% of Americans think lawmakers should trust tobacco companies to provide accu­rate information and only 9.2% believe they are taking responsibility for the harms of smoking. If a law was written or influenced by a tobacco company or tobacco company lobbyist, only 5.0% of Americans believe lawmakers should “leave the law as it is” while 30.1% think lawmakers should “revise the law” and 35.3% think they should “remove the law and start over.” When asked which type of lawmakers were least likely to be influenced by a tobacco company lobbyist, 41.1% chose local-level law­makers, 10.0% chose national-level lawmakers, and 6.0% chose state-level lawmak­ers.

      Health groups have expressed concerns regarding ongoing efforts of tobacco companies to interfere with lawmaking at the state and federal level. Prior studies of tobacco companies’ internal documents show they have heavily influenced laws for over 50 years by creating controversy over established facts, using front groups, and “preempting” local action. Many laws written or influenced by tobacco companies remain in effect today.

 

Public attitudes toward tobacco company influences in lawmaking.

 

Agree

Disagree

Not Sure

Lawmakers should allow tobacco companies or tobacco company lobbyists to help write laws

19.7%

67.3%

11.9%

Lawmakers should trust tobacco company lobbyists to provide accu­rate information on tobacco issues

27.4%

59.8%

12.1%

Lawmakers should trust tobacco companies as much as they trust other companies

32.4%

54.6%

12.2%

Lawmakers should refuse to meet with tobacco company lobbyists

54.5%

31.4%

13.2%

Lawmakers should refuse campaign contributions from tobacco companies

70.9%

17.8%

10.4%

Lawmakers should refuse campaign contributions from tobacco company lobbyists

72.7%

15.7%

10.5%

Lawmakers should refuse meals or other gifts from tobacco company lobbyists

74.4%

13.7%

10.9%

 

      “Americans don’t want tobacco companies to have any influence in lawmaking,” said Doug Matheny, lead author of the study and manager of state and local policy at the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center. “In fact, there is strong support for revisiting current laws written or influenced by tobacco companies.”

      The study also measured support for 12 current or proposed tobacco control laws. Support ranged from 58.4% for prohibiting menthol flavorings to 82.6% for banning smoking inside all workplaces including restaurants and bars.

 

Public attitudes toward existing or proposed tobacco control laws.

 

Favor

Oppose

Not Sure

Ban smoking inside all public and workplaces including restaurants and bars

82.6%

13.1%

4.2%

Fund programs to help prevent youth from smoking and to help smokers quit

81.0%

10.3%

7.5%

Ban smoking in cars with children in them

80.8%

12.4%

5.6%

Reduce nicotine in cigarettes to a level that is not addictive

76.2%

11.9%

10.9%

Require large graphic warning labels on cigarette packs to better convey the health risks of smoking

74.3%

18.1%

6.7%

Raise the minimum age to purchase cigarettes to 21

72.4%

17.2%

9.0%

Require stores that sell tobacco products to post a tobacco quitline sign

71.7%

15.2%

11.8%

Ban smoking inside multi-unit housing such as apartments or condominiums

68.2%

23.6%

7.3%

Increase taxes on cigarettes

65.9%

25.7%

7.2%

Prohibit pharmacies from selling tobacco products

62.3%

25.3%

11.4%

Prohibit price promotions on cigarettes such as coupons or 2-for-1 deals

60.8%

27.7%

10.4%

Prohibit menthol flavorings in cigarettes to make it harder to start smoking

58.4%

26.1%

14.3%

 

      “Public support for effective tobacco control laws is clear,” said Matheny. “Without tobacco company interference, current laws would likely come much closer to reflecting public opinion.”

      In 2006, a United States federal court found Altria, Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds, and other tobacco companies in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, citing 145 acts of racketeer­ing. The tobacco companies sought not only to misinform the public, but also lawmakers. The court ordered the companies to dis­seminate “corrective statements” through news­papers, television, cigarette package inserts, retail stores, and tobacco company websites. After 11 years of legal appeals, publication of the corrective statements began in November 2017.

      Using a random split-sample research design, the study found that the proportion of Americans who think “lawmakers should trust tobacco companies as much as they trust other companies” drops from 32.4% for those who had read the corrective statements to 24.4% for those who had not read the corrective statements. Reading the statements did not improve negative perceptions of tobacco companies.

      “The more people know about the tobacco companies’ behavior, the less likely they want them involved in lawmaking,” said Matheny. “The corrective statements appear unlikely to improve their public image.”

      A copy of the study, including the full survey, is available here.

      The Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center at the Stephenson Cancer Center is funded by a grant from the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET). To learn more about the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center, visit otrc.stephensoncancercenter.org.  

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OU Medicine — along with its academic partner, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center — is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system of hospitals, clinics and centers of excellence. With 11,000 employees and more than 1,300 physicians and advanced practice providers, OU Medicine is home to Oklahoma’s largest physician network with a complete range of specialty care. OU Medicine serves Oklahoma and the region with the state’s only freestanding children’s hospital, the only National Cancer Institute-Designated Stephenson Cancer Center and Oklahoma’s flagship hospital, which serves as the state’s only Level 1 trauma center. OU Medicine’s mission is to lead healthcare in patient care, education and research. To learn more, visit oumedicine.com.

 

STEPHENSON CANCER CENTER
The Stephenson Cancer Center is Oklahoma’s only National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center. One of the country’s elite centers, the Stephenson Cancer Center is the largest and most comprehensive oncology practice in the state, delivering patient-centered, multidisciplinary care for every type of cancer. As one of the country’s leading research organizations, the Stephenson Cancer Center uses the latest innovations to fight and eliminate cancer, and is currently ranked No. 1 among all cancer centers in the nation for the number of patients participating in NCI-sponsored treatment trials. For more information, visit stephensoncancercenter.org.