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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tobacco Industry Involvement in Colorado



Objective: To determine how the tobacco industry has worked behind the scenes in the state of Colorado to influence the public and defeat public health efforts to control tobacco.

Methods: Information for this study was gathered through examination of internal tobacco industry documents, Colorado Secretary of State records, local campaign contribution records, published articles, interviews, reports, web sites and telephone calls.

Results: The tobacco industry has been pervasively involved in fighting public health efforts to reduce tobacco use in Colorado since the early 1980s. Up until the early 1990s, the industry’s involvement was apparent. Shortly thereafter, significant efforts were made to conceal its opposition in Colorado. The industry has primarily applied its resources to defeat tobacco tax increases, derail efforts to limit public smoking and preserve smoking as a socially acceptable behavior. Tactics include influencing and co-opting state legislative processes, strategic utilization of philanthropy, sponsorships and advertising to fight public health efforts, working to divert funding away from existing tobacco education and prevention programs, camouflaging corporate involvement , engagement of paid consultants and front groups, and extensive media and local policy involvement.

Conclusions: The tobacco industry has fought public health efforts to regulate tobacco at both the state and local levels in Colorado for more than two decades. Involvement in opposing public health initiatives has grown, but at the same time become less clear to the public. Industry opposition has been highly organized and well funded, and is increasingly carried out on the local level by third parties rather than the industry itself. The industry’s efforts have slowed the progression of public health efforts to address tobacco issues in Colorado, primarily through derailing efforts to enact clean indoor air laws and blocking increases in state tobacco taxes.

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