Smoking Bill Opposed

Tobacco Takes Stance Against Senate Bill; Voluntary Ad Restrictions May Turn Into Law
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Big Tobacco’s decision to oppose the comprehensive anti-smoking legislation that emerged from the U.S. Senate puts the advertising industry in a precarious position, trade groups agreed last week.
Broad ad restrictions first included in the bill as voluntary measures may now become law. Such a move would send advertising trade groups back into battle.
After nearly a year of lobbying and negotiating with Congress, top tobacco executives said last week they would fight the Senate legislation in court, should it pass. The package is harder on the industry than the settlement reached with states last June. Capitol Hill ad lobbyists considered the Senate bill at least a partial victory, however, because the broad ad restrictions remained voluntary.
“We’re in greater danger now of having ad restrictions made into law than ever before,” said John Fithian, counsel to the Freedom to Advertise Coalition here. “Our efforts to express our First Amendment concerns about the process must double.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), architect of the legislation, could not be reached at press time, but Senate sources said the proposal will move forward without tobacco industry support.
The bill, which was introduced in the Senate Commerce Committee–and lived to see the light of day–demands that tobacco marketers pay $516 billion instead of $368 billion in penalties. It also chips away at the companies’ limited immunity in class-action lawsuits and increases federal cigarette taxes.