From The Guardian:
Tobacco companies have moved swiftly to strengthen their grip on Washington politics, ramping up lobbying efforts and securing significant regulatory wins in the first six months of the Trump era.
Day one of Donald Trump’s presidency started with tobacco donations, senior figures have been put in place within the Trump administration who have deep ties to tobacco, and lobbying activity has increased significantly.
“As in so many areas, the promise to drain the swamp has been an extraordinary hypocrisy,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, who supported anti-tobacco legislation and was one of the US attorneys general to broker a hundred-billion-dollar settlement with tobacco companies in the 1990s. “Many of his appointees have deep commitments to the tobacco industry,” he said.
“Tobacco industry influence in Washington is pervasive, in many different ways,” Blumenthal said. “They have an active presence on the Hill, they meet frequently with administrative agencies, on hugely significant issues such as regulation of e-cigarettes, tobacco packaging and warnings.”
In the first quarter of 2017, tobacco companies and trade associations spent $4.7m lobbying federal officials. Altria, the company behind Marlboro, hired 17 lobbying firms. [RJ] Reynolds, makers of the Camel brand, hired 13, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
Since then, tobacco companies have been putting points on the scoreboard. Politicians and officials with deep ties to the tobacco industry now head the US health department, the top attorney’s office and the Senate, even as tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death.
The Food and Drug Administration has twice delayed legal briefs to defend regulations of e-cigarettes, products cigarette makers say are the future. Summer deadlines for cigar and e-cigarette makers to file applications with the FDA, which regulates the products, have all been delayed by the Trump administration.
And the high-profile attorney Noel Francisco, who once argued for Reynolds that including a quit-line phone number on cigarette packs amounted to government advocacy against smoking, has been nominated for the post of solicitor general, the government’s top attorney.
In the past two decades, the tobacco industry has increasingly steered donations to Republicans.
In the past three years, Trump’s financial disclosures show he earned up to $2.1m from tobacco holdings in diversified portfolios. Trump said he sold his stocks this spring (although he did not provide proof).
Vice-President Mike Pence was already well acquainted with the tobacco lobby. In 2001, Pence argued that “smoking doesn’t kill”. Two months later, Pence met with tobacco lobbyists who steered donations his way.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has had a high-profile role in developing health reform proposals, has long cast votes that favor tobacco interests. […] In January, his former chief of staff was hired by Altria.
Trump’s health appointments also have deep links to tobacco companies. The health secretary, Tom Price, in 2009 voted against a 62-cent cigarette tax hike that would have helped pay for public health insurance for poor children. He called the law a blow to “hard-working Americans” meant “to feed [Obama’s] reckless agenda”. Until 2012, Price owned at least $37,000 in shares in Philip Morris International and Altria, Mother Jones reported, and during his career as a state legislator and Georgia congressman he received more than $37,000 in donations from tobacco companies and related political action committees. In March, Price’s former deputy chief of staff was hired as a lobbyist for Reynolds.
Attorneys appointed to defend the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco products have, in some cases, come directly from the law firm that once fought them – Jones Day. The firm’s attorneys represented Trump during the campaign as well as RJ Reynolds in suits against the US government. Now, 11 lawyers from the firm have been appointed to various government agencies, American Lawyer reported.
Until Francisco’s nomination for solicitor general, he represented both RJ Reynolds and its parent company, Reynolds American Inc.
Francisco has had “a profoundly important involvement with the tobacco industry”, said Blumenthal.
Francisco argued on behalf of Reynolds in a continuing case.
Even the dark “American carnage” speech Trump gave at his inauguration was written by a one-time tobacco advocate: his speechwriter Stephen Miller argued against a cigarette sales ban while he attended Duke University in 2007.
“Smoking, while risky and potentially lethal, is not nearly as dangerous as special interest groups and their cohorts in government have made it out to be,” Miller wrote. “The real risks are the fascistic tendencies that prohibit smoking in even private establishments.”
Coughers for filling Rethuglican coffers rejoice!