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The Tobacco Industry - Essay Example

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The Tobacco Industry

This paper will examine the historical mechanisms through which the tobacco companies exercised their political influence, assess whether they influenced the public policy process legitimately, and discuss how this particular case study affects people generally.
As a preliminary matter, from an historical point of view, the tobacco industry has most certainly influenced the public policy process. Their general approach has been essentially twofold. First, the tobacco industry has relied for many decades on financial contributions made to political parties and to individual candidates and incumbents. These financial contributions were not made on the basis of any particular ideological affinity; indeed, until the election of the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s, the tobacco industry contributed roughly the same amount to both political parties. This changed, however when the Clinton administration began to highlight the public health issues involving tobacco. In short, financial contributions were used for many years to influence both parties; after Clinton took a harder stand against tobacco, the contributions continued but predominantly in favor of the Republican Party. These contributions were supplemented by financial contributions, made through political action committees,, to individual candidates and incumbents. In addition to these "soft money contributions", a second mechanism was the creation, funding, and support of lobbying groups with interests in line with those of the tobacco industry. As the case study notes, the tobacco industry, either of its own initiative or through its proxy, the Tobacco Institute, funded or supported advocacy groups, think tanks, and other research projects consistent with their economic and public policy aims. There was no particular concern for scientific integrity; quite the contrary, as the case study explains, the tobacco industry was most interested in partisan research that could be used to influence public policy in it is favor. In sum, these financial contributions and lobbying efforts formed the primary mechanisms by which the tobacco industry influenced public policy.
This influence was profound and remarkably successful; to be sure, the tobacco industry had never lost a product liability lawsuit until 1996, and governmental efforts to regulate tobacco had been fundamentally feeble. The question, in hindsight, is whether the tobacco industry influenced the public policy process in a legitimate manner. The answer must be, despite technical niceties, a resounding no. This is because the tobacco industry effectively corrupted the public policy process for its own ends rather than contributing to an honest public discussion. Politicians were afraid to lose their financial ...Show more


The sheer size and pervasive reach of the tobacco industry rendered it very difficult to regulate or reason with in the latter half of the twentieth century. Tobacco users ranged from nearly half of the American population in the 1950s to more than a quarter of the population in 1997; nearly seven hundred thousand Americans were employed by the tobacco industry; substantial exports contributed positively to trade balance concerns; more than thirteen billion dollars were generated in the form of local, state, and federal taxes; and, finally, it has been estimated that the tobacco industry has contributed more than fifty-five billion dollars to America's gross domestic product (444-445)…
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