By Brendan Fischer on July 26, 2012

By Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari

State legislators attending this week's American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Salt Lake City will be told they can advance ALEC's mission of "limited government and free enterprise" by letting "the free market reduce smoking-related diseases," according to an agenda obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy.

"Can Tobacco Cure Smoking?" is the title of a workshop this morning led by the tobacco industry-backed Dr. Brad Rodu, who is trained as a dentist but has the title "Chair of Tobacco Harm Reduction Research" at the University of Louisville, a program primarily funded by U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., an ALEC member and manufacturer of smokeless tobacco brands like Copenhagen and Skoal. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute, the Illinois-based think tank that attracted attention earlier this year for making billboards that likened those who believe in man-made climate change to mass murderers and terrorists.

Can Tobacco Cure Smoking?

Rodu's research supports the idea that smokers should replace cigarettes with smokeless chewing tobacco or "snus" moist tobacco packets -- a "free market" solution to reducing smoking that would allow tobacco companies to continue profiting off of addiction.

Candy flavors and bright packaging make snus a kid-friendly optionThe Food & Drug Administration and health advocates have strongly opposed substituting cigarettes for smokeless tobacco because "chew" and "snus" still cause cancer and other serious diseases, and suggesting that smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative would likely lead to a rise in overall tobacco use. The risk is even more significant because tobacco companies market the product to young people with "winter chill" flavors and bright candy-colored packaging. Additionally, because of the low salt content, snus users don't need to spit, making it nearly impossible to tell if a high schooler is chewing snus or Bazooka Joe bubble gum.

As CMD has reported, in May of 2011 Wisconsin Sen. Alberta Darling quietly inserted an amendment into the state budget that was virtually identical to the tobacco industry-supported ALEC model bill "Resolution on the Enhancement of Economic Neutrality, Commercial Efficiency, and Fairness in the Taxation of Moist Smokeless Tobacco (MST) Products." The provision would change the way tobacco is taxed from a per-unit basis or a percentage of cost to a weight-based tax, which would effectively lower the price of snus and smokeless tobacco products manufactured by the big tobacco companies. The provision successfully passed after ALEC sent a letter to Wisconsin legislators supporting the amendment, but Governor Scott Walker vetoed it.

Though ALEC has been shedding corporate members in recent months as the organization has come under increasing public scrutiny (at least 28 members have dropped so far this year), the tobacco industry has remained faithful. Reynolds American is a "President" level sponsor of ALEC's 2012 conference (which in 2010 cost $100,000) and Altria/Philip Morris is a "Chairman" level sponsor (which in 2010 cost $50,000). Additionally, former tobacco industry lobbyist W. Preston Baldwin III is the Chairman of ALEC's governing Private Enterprise Board, Reynolds America lobbyist David Powers is the Board's treasurer, and Altria lobbyist Daniel Smith is part of the Board's Executive Committee. Additionally, Philip Morris lobbyist Brandie Davis, the Private Sector Co-Chair of the ALEC International Relations Task Force, has been named a "Private Sector Member of the Year" for 2012.

Health Care Companies in Bed with Big Tobacco?

ALEC's corporate sponsorsAlso paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to sponsor the ALEC meeting -- including the "Can Tobacco Make You Healthier?" panel -- are companies that claim to be in business to make sick people well, such as pharmaceutical companies Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Alkermes, and pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA, each of which are "Chairman" level sponsors of this year's meeting. The "Chairman" level cost $50,000 in 2010, meaning these companies may have spent $200,000 or more cumulatively to sponsor the meeting. Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline also have representatives on the ALEC Private Enterprise Board, where they sit alongside representatives from the tobacco industry. Other health-related companies sponsoring this year's meeting are insurance company State Farm at the $25,000 "Vice-Chairman" level, and at the $10,000 "Director" level, pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim and hospital operator Intermountain Healthcare. Despite public pressure, these groups have stood by ALEC and the tobacco industry.

Other Workshops

The "Can Tobacco Cure Smoking?" workshop is one of around a dozen that state legislators can attend at ALEC's 39th Annual Meeting, which runs July 25th through 28th at Salt Lake's swank Grand America Hotel, the only AAA Five Diamond hotel in the city. Other workshops include "Municipal Pension Reform" and "Using Non-Addictive Medication in Alternatives to Incarceration," and one titled "Regulation Without Representation" warning of how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "has taken on an ardent regulatory agenda that threatens the representative nature of our government."

Legislators will also sit alongside corporate lobbyists on ALEC's task forces to amend and vote on "model" legislation. The Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force, for example, will discuss topics like "the resurgence of 'right to work,'" getting rid of licensing restrictions for certain professions, and eliminating federal restrictions on states charging toll fees on roads. The Communications and Information Technology Task Force will discuss "the high cost to taxpayers from municipal broadband" and the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force "will cover the EPA's regulation of carbon dioxide" as well as consider model bills like the Animal Property Protection Act and the Intrastate Coal and Use Act.

As CMD has reported, legislators will also attend corporate-sponsored parties and receptions, including an "invitation only" cigar reception, from 9 p.m. to midnight, hosted by one of ALEC's major tobacco firms.

It is not yet known if "snus" will be on the menu.

Brendan Fischer

Brendan Fischer is CMD's General Counsel. He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Comments

Nicotine is a pretty harmful substance. It also prevents bones healing and creates a weaker bone structure. in any form. it is more addictive than junk (smack) heroin .
There is no way it should even be legal.

Nicotine is all of the following: A NATURAL anti-depressant
A NATURAL appetite supressant
A NATURAL concentration aid
A NATURAL memory enhancer
A NATURAL stimulant (small doses)
A NATURAL sedative (larger doses)
There is no debate about this in the scientific community.
Sorry, poster #1, you're not going to get away with lying. The science backs it up.

Nicotine have many properties, the most significant for human health being that it is extremely addictive. It's also a potent poison, but arguably the worst consequence of nicotine addiction is the fact that it makes us consume tobacco smoke, which also contains a multitude of other poisons and carcinogens. Claiming nicotine, on balance, is beneficial, is crazy talk.

The NATURAL thing you so gleefully tout is also utterly irrational. Arsenic is natural, so is radon, and ebola, and uranium, and rape. On the other hand, paracetamol, cutlery, sit-coms and antiseptics are not.

What he said is true. But you, however, are skewing the side of the boat so much it is spinning uncontrollably in an infinite roll. There are better pharmaceuticals in research that have the same benefits to cognition as nicotine but without the high cancerous and addictive potential. NICOTINE IS A DANGEROUS DRUG!

I'm no friend of tobacco companies and have no illusions of why they want to legalize snus, but it isn't a crazy argument on par of climate change denialism, suicide seeds or assault rifles for everyone.

In Scandinavia, snus have long co-existed with smoking tobacco (almost exclusively cigarettes these days). The last couple of decades, large portions of the smokers have changed from cigarettes to snus because of ban on smoking inside in public, as well as for health reasons.

Now, snus contains at least as much nicotine and is no less addictive. But while it is undeniably unhealthy, it is far, far less damaging than inhaling tobacco smoke into the lungs. Many doctors see it as the lesser of the evils; much rather having patients doing snus, than possible not being able to stop smoking. Stopping smoking is very difficult, switching to snus relatively easy. Although snus is undeniably unhealthy, the evidence it causes mouth and throat cancer turned out to be so weak the warning had to be removed from the packaging. Cigarettes are of course linked to greately increased cancer rick and a variety of diseases with incredibly strong evidence.

In addition, there is no such thing as second hand snus - it's only consumed by the actual consumer. Nicotine addiction is very real, and changing from cigarettes to snus entails great statistical health benefits for the user, as well as for anyone in proximity. Not as good as quitting, but better than half way.

So while there is no reason to trust tobacco companies, and no rush to introduce new tobacco products without a proper think, it's irrational to discard snus out of hand, just because the messenger here is unsympathetic and acting out of greedy self interest.

This was an excellent post!!

You are so correct that there is no reason to trust the racketeering tobacco companies, and there's no rush to introduce new tobacco products without a proper think, and that it's irrational to discard snus out of hand, just because the messenger (Rodu) here is unsympathetic and acting out of greedy self interest.

Rodu has no conscious!!

A doctor friend says that although he'd preferably have his smoking patients quit completely, he'd rather have two smoking patients switch to snus, than one of them quitting completely and the other one keep smoking. Nicotine is bad, but the whole regularly-inhaling-smoke-into-the-lungs thing is also a stupidly dangerous way of getting the fix.

It's all a trade off. Introducing snus will probably make fewer people kick nicotine completely. It could also mean fewer already addicted people dying of nictotine addiction related diseases, and it would reduce second hand smoke.

One thing is for sure though: this should not be decided with tobacco companies by the table.

I'm a life-long smoker. I've "quit" several times, only to start up again. It's awful. There is a certain segment of nicotine addicts who, for whatever reason, simply cannot quit.

There have been studies in Sweden showing that "harm reduction" programs actually do work. It's not "safe", it's not ideal and it's certainly unwise to promote "harm reduction" programs to people who aren't already hooked on the dreadful poison.

The core concept: "some people are life-long addicts and will not quit smoking, no matter how hard they try, so lets provide something less harmful" does have merits.

ALEC is NOT the way I'd like to see these ideas introduced to congress. We don't need snuff handed out in happy meals or pez dispensers to maximize profits. BUT just because ALEC corporations are in favor of it, doesn't make it the whole idea bad... I'd like to see more research done on e-cigs.

Anonymous? I, too, am a member of the "those who just can't quit" club, But I disagree with your opinion on the matter. You and I, and millions of others are going to Hell in our own way.
What is important is that these substitutes NOT be on the market, because the enticement for kids to use these products are already being slyly marketed to young non-smoking and those already smoking alike.
We are already done for, but everything possible MUST be done to limit tobacco products availability to the younger, PERIOD!

John Cheney 88

While snus might indeed be 'less harmful' than smoking, research shows that snus contains carcinogens and other additives harmful to the human body. There is no reason to trust the racketeering tobacco companies, and they will continue to manipulate their products to hook and keep users addicted. They think only about profit, and not about health consequences of their deadly, addictive products.

Rodu is a pawn of the tobacco industry who is unsympathetic and acting out of greedy self interest. He has no conscious!!

The challenge for elected leaders today is to fight tobacco use with the political will and resources that match the scope of the problem. All levels of government must do more:

At the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must effectively exercise its new authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. In addition, the Administration and Congress must consider implementation of a national tobacco prevention and cessation campaign. Policy interventions must also include consideration of a national clean indoor air act, mandating comprehensive workplace protection from secondhand smoke. The Prevention and Public Health Fund created as part of the health care reform law provides an excellent opportunity to do these.

The regulation of tobacco products is an important and critical component of an overall comprehensive tobacco prevention and control strategy that will not replace, but will strengthen, existing tobacco control efforts. In order to reduce tobacco use prevalence among individuals of low income and low educational attainment, increased funding must be directed to programs to prevent youth tobacco initiation and increase cessation help for current users, especially those who are highly addicted to nicotine and for the many special populations having high tobacco use rates.

Toll-free telephone quit lines are effective, yet few addicted tobacco users and clinicians are aware of them; and they require greater marketing and support.

State policy-makers must look to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs by increasing tobacco taxes and/or by setting aside other state funds. Doing so will save money and lives, and it won’t take that many years to accomplish. In addition, local boards of health (or the Legislature) must continue to enact comprehensive smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public places.

Both prevention and political polls show that there is public support for earmarking a portion of tobacco taxes for tobacco-control programs targeted to young people, but politicians must be aware of that support or they will continue using the funds for other purposes.

Politicos Need ToRemember: Smoking and other tobacco use continues to be the single most preventable cause of premature death and unnecessary health care expenses that cost our economy billions of dollars per year.

Prevention programs work and garner a solid return on investment.

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