Tobacco industry quietly influencing California legislators

Tobacco industry quietly influencing California legislators

The powerful tobacco industry's deep pockets are apparently quietly influencing California legislators, discouraging them from approving stricter tobacco regulation measures for the state.

A package of six tobacco-related bills stalled in the California Legislature earlier this month due to lack of sufficient support. Democratic lawmakers have reintroduced the bills, but their future is still uncertain as many lawmakers are reluctant support them.

Many experts believe that tobacco industry's financial contributions during election campaigns are partly responsible for the problem.

Tobacco companies have contributed more than $173,000 to members of the state Assembly's 21-member Governmental Organization committee, which recently stalled the measure designed to limit the marketing and use of e-cigarettes.

Democratic Sen. Mark Leno, who authored the measure, said, "The chairman and his committee are doing the full bidding of the tobacco industry -- and that's frightening. Big Tobacco has been searching for a 'safe' delivery system for their toxic and addictive nicotine. E-cigarettes are their new holy grail."

Tobacco giants Altria and Reynolds American, which produces brands like Marlboro and Camel, did not formally oppose anti-tobacco measure SB140. But they spent huge amounts of money earlier this year on influential lobbyists who fought the measure for the companies.

The companies reportedly spent more than $215,000 on lobbyists opposing the bill in the first three months of this year. Assemblyman Henry Perea, a democrat from Fresno, introduced a motion to approve heavy amendments in the original SB140 on July 8. Records showed that he received $14,000 in campaign money from tobacco firms.

Only three of the committee's 14 Democrats voted against the heavily amended measure, and none of those three members had received any financial support from tobacco companies.

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