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Attempted Restrictions on the Media Campaign

Full funding of the Health Education and Research Accounts was only one problem that tobacco control advocates faced. As illustrated by the Governor's May budget revision, tobacco control now had to deal with efforts by the tobacco industry's political allies to withhold money from effective programs and instead fund ineffective ones. The governor had already tried to focus the campaign on youth. Now Speaker Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove) proposed that the media campaign be prohibited from attacking the tobacco industry and limited to publicizing the health effects of smoking. He wanted the advertisements to “be based solely on the health implications of tobacco use and on the health implications of refraining from tobacco use.”[50] Echoing tobacco industry rhetoric, he argued that taxpayer dollars should not be used to attack a legal industry.

Reflecting another common tobacco industry strategy for reducing the effectiveness of anti-smoking advertising, Pringle wanted the ads to focus on children between the ages of six and fourteen, a strategy, Adams said, that “dooms the entire campaign to fail.”[51] These restrictions would have forced DHS to stop using effective messages that had changed the social environment and helped reduce smoking in favor of ones that public health professionals had long known to be ineffective.[52] Pringle also wanted $5 million set aside for cessation.

Senators Thompson and Lockyer and Assembly Member Katz were strongly opposed to media account restrictions, although they were willing to include the cessation language as a compromise with Speaker Pringle in order to protect the media campaign.[21] Though it was not realized at the time, this $5 million was money currently appropriated for the media campaign that the governor had not spent and which would have been carried over to the next year in the media account. Thus, the cessation compromise was effectively a cut in the media campaign.

In addition, following the lead of his predecessor, Willie Brown, Speaker Pringle also tried to insert language in the authorization for the Research Account that would block it from funding research of a “partisan political nature.”[53] (ANRF and AHA protested this incursion of politics into the Research Account debate by running an advertisement, which included side-by-side photos of Pringle and Brown, who despised each other.) According to Katz, “Pringle and the governor were very, very serious about attacking Stan [Glantz] and the research, writing into Prop 99 or the budget that the ads couldn't attack the tobacco companies.”[20]

Pringle was widely criticized for his stance. The editorial in the Sacramento Bee on June 28 was representative: “Tobacco industry executives plainly don't enjoy turning on the television and seeing ads telling Californians that the industry profits at the expense of their health. They don't like it when researchers unmask their marketing and political strategies. It's not hard to understand why they want the Legislature to undermine those elements of Proposition 99. What's harder to explain, and impossible to justify, is the speaker's willingness to do their work.”[54] Pringle's language putting limits on what the media account could be used for was eventually dropped.


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