In the United States, the tobacco industry operates at the federal, state and local levels. Federally, the industry has been invited to weigh in on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory approach to tobacco and e-cigarettes. The FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee is composed of three non-voting members who have an identified interest with the tobacco industry, including large and small business manufacturing and leaf growing.
Nationwide all 50 states have at least one lobbyist registered to represent a tobacco company. The industry spent over USD $46 million in federal lobbying between 2017-18. At the state and local level the industry utilized lobbyists and multiple front groups to thwart legislation including raising the age of purchase to 21, banning flavored tobacco and introducing tax bills. The industry also continued its trend of drafting sample legislation with pre-emptive language (i.e., removing the right of lower governments to enact stricter regulations) and delaying and weakening state and federal action and authority.
The industry actively supported many humanitarian and disaster relief causes. However, no specific endorsements from the government and its agencies were identified.
The FDA extended the ingredient listing deadline for manufacturers as well as the ingredient compliance deadlines for new tobacco products. The FDA also delayed the premarket review of e-cigarettes. The FDA e-cigarette plan exempts mint and menthol from proposed restrictions and the U.S. government provides crop insurance premium subsidies to tobacco farmers. There are also common state-level exemptions for age of purchase, grandfathered provisions and government-sponsored compliance checks. Some states also have retail sales taxes that are not applied to tobacco products.
The tobacco industry sponsored and funded events for both federal and state politicians. Altria gave $500,000 to President Trump’s inaugural activities and tens of thousands of industry dollars went to charitable events in multiple states.
Federally, the FDA does not have policies in place to disclose all public comments on FDA dockets and to provide copies of communications between the FDA and tobacco industry representatives. In most states, lawmakers are not typically required to disclose the full nature of their informal interactions with lobbyists.
Nevertheless, there are other government disclosure rules such as an annual tobacco company registration, registration of firms with in-house lobbyists when meeting some income and expense minimums and different types of permit requirements, such as for businesses related to the manufacture of tobacco. All 50 states provide public access to registration information for lobbyists or entities who contract for lobbying services.
The industry has spent millions in political campaign contributions including over USD $5 million in federal-level campaign contributions during the 2018 election cycle alone. The industry has also infiltrated state governments, with former lobbyist and directors taking government positions. Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stepped down from her position when it was revealed that she invested in tobacco and drug companies, which was deemed inconsistent with the mission of the CDC.
The FDA Tobacco Scientific Advisory Committee provides links to agendas, rosters, webcasts, presentations, public submissions, minutes and questions for their meetings. Federal oversight is also conducted by several government agencies.
However, a government code of conduct for public officials when dealing with the industry, policies disallowing contributions or gifts from the tobacco industry to government agencies and officials and programs to raise awareness within government departments on FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines could not be identified.
- Restrict lobbying: While a complete ban on lobbying is prohibited in the U.S., there are measures that states can undertake to help prevent tobacco industry interference.
- Limit CSR: A complete ban of industry CSR activities would be prohibited by the U.S. Constitution, however states can enforce some limits.
- Divestment: Several states and localities have already complied with Article 5.3 by divesting from tobacco; other states should follow.
- Official code of conduct/conflict of interest policies: States should reject partnerships with the tobacco industry and develop a code of conduct for their agencies and officials when interacting with the tobacco industry.
- Increase transparency: Government officials should be required to report interactions with the tobacco industry and its affiliates. The transcripts of meetings with the industry should be made public. Lobbyists should be required to divulge if they are financed by the tobacco industry or its affiliates.
Get more information at about the Global Tobacco Industry Interference IndexView Index Online