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Placer County

Placer County is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range northeast of Sacramento. The Placer County Tobacco Control Coalition (PCTCC), similar to the one in Long Beach, played a key role in developing and passing tobacco control ordinances in the county and several of its cities. During 1991 the PCTCC initiated ordinances in meetings with city managers, arranged study sessions for city councils in the municipalities of Auburn and Roseville, and provided model ordinances as well as written support and public testimony.

The tobacco industry recognized that it could not stop all legislative activity, so it settled on a fall-back position of supporting weak, ineffectual ordinances in the hope that they would forestall tough local tobacco control regulations. By April 25, 1991, the tobacco industry had identified an opportunity to get its “model” ordinance adopted in Placer County.[47] The model ordinance provided for 50 percent of a restaurant's space to be designated as a nonsmoking area as well as for workplace smoking policies to be established by the individual employer. Although the industry proposal was denounced by health groups, it indicated how far and how fast the issue of clean indoor air had advanced in California: the industry's proposed law was stronger than either Proposition 5 or Proposition 10, which the industry had spent over $10 million defeating just a decade earlier.

In Placerville the industry worked through its California Business and Restaurant Alliance (CBRA). In an April 25 memo, Randy Morris, regional director of the Tobacco Institute, wrote to Kent Rhodes, the local CBRA counsel, to specify procedure: “Naturally, this proposal [the industry's model ordinance] is not set in concrete, however, significant changes to the ordinance's provisions, i.e. increasing penalties, further smoking restrictions, etc., must be cleared with appropriate institute staff: the undersigned and Bob McAdam, Vice President for Special Projects. T.I. Staff will then review proposed changes with appropriate member-company personnel, to wit: Sandy Timpson of Philip Morris


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and Jim O'Mally of R. J. Reynolds.”[47] Incidentally, the Tobacco Institute wanted to be sure that all memo recipients understood that this “model” was the standard for California only: “A caveat is in order. While the Placer County Omnibus Tobacco Control Act of 1991 is a guideline which will allow Placer County to definitively handle the tobacco issue by setting a standard for other California counties and municipalities, it must be acknowledged that industry policy on California local issues reflect[s] a distinct and separate environment of tobacco politics unique to this state” (emphasis added).[47] In short, a similar ordinance in another state would not be acceptable. California's Tobacco Control Program was succeeding.

In early summer the PCTCC began to develop an ordinance for the county similar to those being passed in the cities. (The city of Colfax also passed an ordinance in mid-August with the help of the PCTCC.) By this time, the tobacco industry had started to intervene aggressively with its new strategy. On November 1, 1991, the Sacramento Restaurant and Merchant Association (SRMA), which was a vehicle for Ray McNally, cosponsored a meeting to organize opposition and select individuals to speak at the Board of Supervisors' November 6 hearing. Diann Rogers and Rosabel Tao of SRMA (employees of Ray McNally) conducted the meeting and stated that SRMA was assisting other communities against similar tobacco control ordinances. They distributed detailed information explaining exactly what local individuals should do to oppose the county ordinance. Rogers asserted that the ordinance would adversely affect the local economy, impose too much government regulation, and infringe on individual rights. The meeting also presented strategies to counter health advocates' efforts. Rogers stressed that health advocates would claim that the tobacco industry was assisting the opposition but that it was important to deny such involvement—such claims would damage the opposition's credibility and the allegations of industry involvement were not true.

The tobacco industry's new strategy succeeded in mobilizing local opposition. The issues brought up at the November 1 meeting were raised, and the tactics applied, by opponents at the Board of Supervisors' hearing later that week. Rogers and Tao attended but did not testify. Although the ordinance had strong support from two supervisors, it was defeated by a 3-2 vote. A compromise ordinance—one weaker than those adopted in the nearby Sierra Nevada foothill communities of Auburn, Roseville, and Colfax—was passed.


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The tobacco industry continued to develop an aggressive local strategy to combat the efforts of local health professionals who were aided by resources and education programs funded by Proposition 99. By November 27, 1991, McAdam was formalizing the Tobacco Institute's “California Local Referenda Program.” According to McAdam,

In the absence of a preemptive state law governing smoking restrictions, we have confronted—and will continue to confront—an unprecedented threat of workplace and restaurant smoking ban actions at the local level in California. Either through the ballot box by referenda or through reasonable compromise forged with local officials, this increasing threat of local smoking bans must be challenged… .

The past eight months of operating at the local level have given us some substantial insight into what organization and resources have been most effective in waging this particular battle to stop these prospective bans.[37] [emphasis added]

The industry mounted a multi-million-dollar campaign using professional public relations and political campaign firms to directly lobby for and organize opposition against local tobacco control ordinances.


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