TOBACCO INDUSTRY INFLUENCE AND INCOME ON DECLINE IN CALIFORNIA

By Wallace Ravven on October 12, 1999

A series of political defeats, declines in campaign contributions and a recent
falloff in revenue appear to signal an erosion of tobacco industry influence in
California, even though the industry remains a major political force in the
state, according to a new report from the University of California, San
Francisco.

Despite nine attempts by tobacco interests to repeal or delay the first
state-wide smoke free bar law, public health groups were able to stave off the
attacks and preserve the law, which has been in effect since January 1, 1998,
the study documents.

The report, “Turning the Tide: Tobacco Industry Political Influence and
Tobacco Policy Making in California 1997-1998,” is the fourteenth assessment of
tobacco industry activities and influence in California published by the
Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF.

Authors are Sheryl Magzamen, MPH, postgraduate researcher in the Institute,
and Stanton Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine at UC San Francisco and a member
of the UCSF Institute and UCSF’s Cardiovascular Research Institute. Glantz is a
tobacco industry scholar and longtime critic of many of the industry’s tactics
to influence smoking, from state policies to advertising.

The report describes a break in a decade-long pattern of tobacco industry
campaign contributions in California: Since 1991-1992, the industry’s
contributions have favored the party in power. But in the 1997-1998 election
cycle, Republicans received 81 percent of tobacco campaign money even though
the Democrats controlled both houses of the Legislature. Contributions to
Republicans in the state have doubled since the beginning of the decade, the
report finds.

The report scrutinizes tobacco industry political contributions and finds an
association between the amount given and a recipient’s support for the tobacco
industry.

The authors identify a six-year downward trend in the industry’s total
expenditures in the state (excluding initiatives), with recent declines in
contributions to legislators and constitutional officers. (These statistics are
complicated by the 1996 passage, and subsequent nullification by the courts, of
Proposition 208, the campaign finance reform initiative.)

The tobacco industry contributed $848,635 to state legislators and legislative
candidates, constitutional officers, and political party committees. On a per
member basis, California legislators continued to receive more money than
members of Congress ($5117 per member in California compared to $4373 per
member of Congress), the report shows.
While campaign contributions were down, tobacco industry lobbying
expenditures continued to grow in 1997-98, to $3.4 million, up from $3 million
in 1995-1996.
     
## Other findings summarized by the report:

* The tobacco industry failed to prevent passage of Proposition 10
in 1998, an initiative to create early childhood development programs, funded
through a $.50 increase of the tobacco tax. The tobacco industry spent $29.4
million in its unsuccessful effort to defeat Proposition 10, compared to $7
million by supporters of the initiative.
* Recent statistics from the State Board of Equalization indicate
that there has been a 28 percent reduction in tobacco consumption in the first six months of 1999 in California compared to the first six months of 1998. This reduction reflected
the effects of price increases due to the tax increase, wholesale price
increases by the tobacco industry, and the revival of the state’s tobacco
control program.

The report concludes: “Tobacco control advocates must campaign for continued
funding of tobacco control programs to increase awareness that despite the
victories of 1997 and 1998, tobacco use is still a primary public health
problem in California.”
       
The full report, including contributions to specific politicians,
is available on the UCSF Library web site at
http://www.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco/ca9799.
The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute and the American
Cancer Society.