Friday, November 12, 1999

Tobacco tactics
in state lawmaking

Where there's a bill against
smoking, industry critics show,
there may also be 'experts'
paid by the giants

By Susan Kreifels


Documents compiled from the lawsuits against the tobacco industry show that tobacco companies paid people to influence elected officials voting on smoking legislation but did not register them as lobbyists, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii says.

The industry also didn't disclose that the lobbyists had received money from Phillip Morris, according to the documents.

"One of the problems we've always had is that the industry has hidden behind their subsidiaries and other purported experts, when in fact they are paid spokespeople for the industry," said Margery Bronster, former state attorney general. "Our legislators and Council people have to be extremely, extremely careful."

Information at Capitol today

Clifford Chang, director of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii, and Don Weisman, communications director of the American Heart Association, are joining Bronster in presenting the information today at the state Capitol.

The documents were compiled from lawsuits against the tobacco industry that ended in a $206 billion settlement with states last year. Hawaii is to receive $1.38 billion over 25 years.

The deal was designed to resolve remaining state claims for health costs of treating sick smokers. In exchange for the payments, the states dropped other lawsuits that would have posed legal and financial threats to the industry.

The documents, which Weisman has been compiling, show that Philip Morris paid $200,000 to a mainland contractor in 1993 to recommend ways to accommodate smokers and nonsmokers in the same building.

'People in the state have to
know there are lobbyists who are
going from legislature to legislature
attempting to affect bills.'

Margery Bronster


The company spoke with Honolulu City Council members and the local restaurant and bar industries on how improving air ventilation would make smoking bans unnecessary, Weisman said, but it did not register as a lobbyist for Philip Morris, nor did it disclose that it had received money from the tobacco giant.

City Council members passed a ban on cigarette smoking in all restaurants without bars by a vote of 5-4 in June 1995. Mayor Jeremy Harris vetoed the measure.

Council member Rene Mansho, who voted against the measure, said last night she did not recall hearing such air-ventilation information. She said she voted against the measure because local businesses opposed it, and because diners could choose between smoke-free restaurants and those that weren't. She said she would want anybody receiving money from the tobacco industry to disclose such information.

Councilman John DeSoto, who also voted against the ban, said he doesn't remember getting such information and that the tobacco industry has not had any influence on him. He said he doesn't remember any mainland companies talking to him about air ventilation.

G.A. "Red" Morris, a local lobbyist for Philip Morris, passed questions to a company spokesman who could not be reached yesterday.

Isles' young adults targeted

Documents show an analysis by the tobacco industry on which provisions in 1996 state House and Senate bills regulating the sale of tobacco were more favorable to the industry.

"People in the state have to know there are lobbyists who are going from legislature to legislature attempting to affect bills," Bronster said.

Documents also show a 1990 marketing plan of Benson & Hedges called Benson Beach. The plan promoted cigarettes among young adults by giving away prizes such as a Chevrolet Vet sports car, Weisman said.

Weisman said Hawaii is Benson & Hedges' biggest market and was used for test-marketing new menthol products. "They targeted certain ethnic groups they knew were heavy menthol users," Weisman said.

"The state can't sue, but it can see what the industry's efforts are," he said.

Attorneys from McCorriston Miho Miller and Mukai, who represented the tobacco industry here, could not be reached yesterday.

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