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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tobacco Industry Political Activity and Tobacco Control Policy Making in New Jersey: 1982-1995


The tobacco industry is a major political and legal force in New Jersey through campaign contributions, lobbying and litigation.

The tobacco industry has become a major source of campaign contributions to legislative candidates, gubernatorial candidates, and political party committees. In the 1982-1983 election cycle, the tobacco industry contributed $17,249 to candidates and parties. In 1994-1995, the tobacco industry contributed $269,075 to candidates and parties.

The tobacco industry was the leading contributor to political parties and leadership PACs in New Jersey during the 1994-1995 election cycle. The combined contributions from Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, the Tobacco Institute, Smokeless Tobacco Council, US Tobacco, Coast Cigarettes and New Jersey Amusement Co., to political parties and leadership PACs totaled $233,100.

Although direct campaign contributions to legislative candidates has decreased slightly since 1990-1991, the tobacco industry has compensated by contributing to leadership PACs, which have no campaign contributions limits. In 1994-1995 the tobacco industry contributed $192,550 to leadership PACs, $107,800 to Republican leadership PACs and $84,750 to Democratic leadership PACs.

In addition to providing campaign contributions, the tobacco industry is active in lobbying members of the legislature and the administration. During the 1994-1995 legislature, the tobacco industry spent $725,107 in lobbying expenditures. The tobacco industry became an especially active lobby during the 1986-1987 legislative session after the legislature had passed several clean indoor air laws in the early and mid 1980s.

A relationship exists between tobacco industry campaign contributions and state legislative behavior. The more money a legislator receives, the less likely he or she is to support tobacco control efforts. The tobacco industry also tends to contribute more money to legislators that have supported the industry in the past.

Several health related groups, such as Blue Cross, the Medco Behavioral Care Corporation, and Cathedral Health Care Systems, are represented by many of the same lobbyists as the tobacco industry. This pattern of representation raises the possibility of conflict of interests among lobbyists who represent the tobacco industry and health groups.

Before 1994, there were very few local smoke free or limiting tobacco to children ordinances in New Jersey. Since 1994, when the state Supreme Court upheld the 1990 East Brunswick ordinance that banned vending machines, 153 New Jersey localities have passed smoke free air ordinances or ordinances controlling the availability of tobacco to children.

Despite a state Supreme Court decision to uphold the East Brunswick ordinance that eliminated cigarette vending machines, New Jersey cigarette distributors continue to legally challenge municipalities that enact ordinances that eliminate cigarette vending machines.

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