The Deadly Impact of Tobacco Lobbying in Oklahoma
Have you ever wondered why the majority of our smoking laws prioritize the interests of the tobacco industry over the health of Oklahomans? That’s no accident. It’s the result of deliberate, manipulative tactics from the tobacco lobby. As a refresher, lobbying includes any lawful attempt to influence the actions, policies or decisions of government officials.
Although lobbying is legal, nearly two-thirds of U.S. tobacco lobbyists represent a company found guilty of breaking civil racketeering laws, marketing to children and lying to the public about the dangers of smoking. Additionally, these attempts work directly against public health efforts to save lives — and most of these deals happen in the shadows, also by design.
Pop-out: A 1992 Philip Morris document states: “Public opinion and media coverage are only important when they affect the government. We will never be liked. What we want is to be ignored.”
The solution is clear: It’s time to call out the tobacco lobby groups working behind the scenes in Oklahoma.
Tactics of the Trade
In all 50 states, Big Tobacco works hard to thwart any legislation that:
- Bans smoking in workplaces
- Raises tobacco taxes or taxes new products
- Funds preventive programs
- Reduces underage access
If they can’t win, they try their very best to delay or weaken these efforts. So, what are some of their primary tactics?
- Donating directly to political campaigns
- Swaying politicians with gifts and meals
- Casting doubt on well-established facts
- Spreading disinformation through their PR campaigns
When all else fails, they even draft their own legislation!
The State of the Tobacco Lobby in Oklahoma
So, how much does Big Tobacco spend lobbying in the Sooner State? According to OpenSecrets.org, tobacco lobbyists contributed at least $2,706,541 to Oklahoma politicians and organizations since 1991. Of this, only one-tenth came from in-state lobbyists. The other $2.4 million was all from out-of-state contributors. This means tobacco industry lobbyists greatly influence public health policy in our state … and they don’t even live here.
Oklahoma’s top Big Tobacco contributions from 2018–2022 came from:
- Reynolds American (the makers of Newport, Camel and Pall Mall) at $29,450
- Altria (the company behind Marlboro and Copenhagen) at $23,250
Both companies were found guilty of civil racketeering in 2006. That ruling says the companies deceived the public and lawmakers, and their dishonesty has “permeated all aspects of their operations.”
Make no mistake: The greatest obstacle to Oklahoma’s tobacco prevention efforts is interference from the tobacco industry. Although we’ve made significant progress to reduce tobacco usage in the state, there is still work to be done. It’s up to us to call out Big Tobacco’s shady behavior and work to reduce the deadly, far-reaching impact of their products on public health. Want to get involved? Share this article on social media and browse more ideas here. Together, we can stop the tobacco industry in its tracks.