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The Battle over Local Tobacco Control Ordinances
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The Tobacco Industry's Plan: “California's Negative Environment”

By January 11, 1991, the Tobacco Institute's State Activities Division had prepared a secret report entitled “California: A Multifaceted Plan to Address a Negative Environment.”[4] The report documented how successful the tobacco control advocates had been:

With the passage of Proposition 99—the $500 million annual tobacco tax increase measure adopted in November, 1988—the industry faces statewide funding of local anti-tobacco activity, including local measures to ban smoking in workplaces, restaurants and most other public places.

Ten years ago, the assumption was that most law makers and members of the public who thought about the issue viewed smoking as an occasional nuisance. Today, it seems that many view tobacco smoke as dangerous to the health of nonsmokers.[4]

The report listed three long-term strategies: to “adopt a reasonable statewide smoking law, with preemption”; to “redirect Proposition 99 funding away from direct anti-tobacco lobbying and other activities”; and to “reduce or eliminate Proposition 99 funding.” In the interim, the industry was to “assemble a legislative team to monitor and defeat local smoking restriction ordinances in California.” The team working on local strategies had a budget of $520,000 in 1991 and $2,085,000 in 1992, with the understanding that “as it becomes necessary to exercise our referenda option in various communities, this amount could increase greatly.”[4]

In 1992 Kurt L. Malmgren, the Tobacco Institute's senior vice president for state activities, prepared a report for Samuel Chilcote, president of the Tobacco Institute, in which he generalized from the tobacco industry's experiences in California, Massachusetts, and Washington State to design an “Expanded Local Program” for the tobacco industry to use

nationwide. Among the needs identified in California, Malmgren listed the following as “primary”:

  • Sophisticated monitoring of local ordinance introductions
  • Ability to respond quickly with locally-based advocates
  • Local consultants who can go door-to-door to educate restaurateurs, business leaders, minority group leaders, representatives from organized labor, and other potential allies
  • The ability to rightfully project a local concern about a given anti-tobacco ordinance, making it more difficult for anti-tobacco leaders to say, “The only people who oppose this ordinance are the out-of-state tobacco companie.”
  • Reasonably coordinated and effective means to trigger direct mail campaigns, phone bank operations and other contacts[50] [emphasis in original]

Malmgren also cited one of the Tobacco Institute's strengths in California: “The industry team quickly employs coalition coordinators who can—quickly and effectively—do the necessary legwork to develop support for individual restaurateurs, retailers, hoteliers, local labor leaders and others.”[50] Significant local opposition to local ordinances was unlikely to exist without an employed coalition coordinator. While the industry was able to slow passage of local ordinances using these strategies, in the end the tobacco control community—through a combination of Proposition 99–funded educational programs and privately funded political action—was routinely defeating the tobacco industry at the local level.

An undated Philip Morris memorandum on various state tobacco control programs observed,

In California our biggest challenge has not been the anti-smoking advertising campaign created with cigarette excise tax dollars.

Rather, it has been the creation of an anti-smoking infrastructure, right down to the local level. It is an infrastructure that for the first time has the resources to tap into the anti-smoking network at the national level.[51] [emphasis added]

Much as it disliked the anti-tobacco media campaign, the industry recognized that, contrary to its early expectations, there were other potent forces at work that would cause serious problems.

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The Battle over Local Tobacco Control Ordinances
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