Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

June 15th, 2016:

Who Does the Biggest Lobbying Force in the US Represent? Not Its Members

‘Member companies become de facto promoters of tobacco and adversaries of climate action’

Who does the biggest lobbying force in the United States represent? Not its members.

That’s according to a new investigation (pdf) by a group of U.S. senators, which found that on the issues of tobacco use and climate change, there’s a profound disparity between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s positions and those of the companies it supposedly speaks for.

The investigation, which comes on the heels of leaked polling results showing how the group attempts to suppress the “empathy” of its members on pro-worker positions, is based on research and correspondence with 108 private sector members of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.

Led by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), it was triggered by a series of 2015 New York Times articles exposing how the group was working to thwart global anti-smoking efforts and fight President Barack Obama’s plan to limit power plant emissions of greenhouse gases.

The findings, the report states, “[call] into question the Chamber’s allegedly transparent decision-making process, and [suggest] that the Chamber does not accurately represent the positions of its member companies.” As noted in the report:

Approximately half of the companies on the Chamber’s Board of Directors have adopted anti-tobacco and pro-climate positions that contrast sharply with the Chamber’s activities.

Not a single Board member explicitly supported the Chamber’s lobbying efforts.

Despite the Chamber’s description of the Board as its “principal governing and policy-making body,” not one Chamber Board member explicitly indicated that they were fully aware of and able to provide their input and views to the Chamber regarding its actions on tobacco and climate.

In fact, “We found a corporate America far more concerned about public health and the environment than the Chamber’s efforts would suggest. We identified dozens of companies investing heavily to get their employees to stop smoking because they realize a healthy workforce is a productive one. We identified companies from all corners of the economy working to reduce their carbon footprints and affirmatively supporting the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan and its international efforts at the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris,” the senators write in their cover letter to Chamber Board members accompanying the report.

Yet these members “undermine their own efforts by affiliating with an organization that actively and aggressively undermines efforts to reduce tobacco use and tries to prevent action to address climate change,” the letter continues. “By lending tacit support to an organization that has spearheaded a decades-long effort against policies to address both problems, member companies become de facto promoters of tobacco and adversaries of climate action.”

The letter goes on to urge the members to reflect upon “the effects in Congress of your continued affiliation with the Chamber on these issues.”

Expounding on the influence the Chamber wields, Dan Dudis, director of Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch Program, writes in an op-ed at The Hill this week:

While the Chamber is well known in Washington as a big-spending mouthpiece for Big Business, even seasoned observers of the D.C. political scene might be surprised at just how far and wide the Chamber has spread its tentacles.

Dudis also writes that it has a “central role […] in corrupting our political system through more than $1 billion in lobbying and more than $100 million in election spending.”

And that speaks to the campaign spending issues that followed the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. As Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst in the Center for Science and Democracy at Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote last year:

If its own board members aren’t standing with the Chamber on climate change, who is? Who is supporting the Chamber’s anti-science position on climate and other issues? And who is funding its work to undercut efforts to promote clean energy and reduce our emissions? We need greater transparency in our political system to hold accountable those blocking efforts to address climate change.


The war between electronic cigarettes and combustible cigarettes is still fighting.

A recent study promoted the idea that e-cigarettes are responsible for cigarette addiction in teenagers. Days after it was published, other members of the scientific community started commenting, denying the validity of the survey, accusing the authors of promoting misleading information.


The initial study used a sample of approximately 1,000 high-schoolers enrolled in the 11th or 12th grade. None of the participants ever smoked a combustible cigarette. Almost half of them tried an e-cigarette.

After 16 months since the first round of interviews, the team tracked down the participants and asked them again about their smoking habits.

According to the study that was published on Monday in the on-line journal, Pediatrics, almost half of the teenagers that admitted to smoking electronic cigarettes were now struggling with a cigarette addiction.

The conclusions formulated by the team were that electronic cigarettes are only gateway nicotine delivery systems that eventually lead to cigarette addiction. They ended the paper by stating that the FDA was right when implementing the new measure that says minors are not allowed to buy electronic cigarettes on the territory of the United States.


The study was not well received at all by the medical community. Many of the professionals specialized in cigarette addiction stated that the survey was too vague and that its conclusions are rash and incorrect.

According to Ann McNeil, a Tobacco Addiction Professor at London’s King’s College, the paper has some loopholes that cannot be ignored.

For once, the authors only mentioned that half of the surveyed adolescents used an e-cigarette. However, they didn’t specify if the device was used on a regular basis or if the teens only tried it once or twice in their life.

On the other hand, they never did any follow-ups. They just returned after 16 months and counted the adolescents that developed a smoking addiction.

However, that isn’t necessarily an indicator of the fact that electronic cigarettes can lead to the development of a smoking addiction. It just shows that the teenagers that are inclined to try one thing will ultimately be inclined to try the other one.

What the doctors are arguing is that electronic cigarettes are not to be blamed in the case of the teens that developed a smoking addiction, rather their entourage and their curious nature.

Electronic cigarettes have been deemed by previous studies as being the safest quitting or nicotine-delivery option on the market.

What do you think? Which side has the most compelling arguments? In the war between e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes who do you side with? Share your thoughts in the section below.

Better safe than sorry when it comes to e-cigarettes

Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use has spread rapidly within a few years and taken public health professionals in tobacco control, as well as the tobacco industry, by surprise. Most people thought this would be another fad like snus or bidis that would fade away. The use of e-cigarettes varies by country, and the U.S. shows that most teens and adolescents are trying and using them at several folds higher rates than previous years, while in Britain this might not be the case.

When the tobacco industry took notice, it bought some of these small companies or produced its own brands. E-cigarettes have become one of the most controversial public health topics today.

The public health controversy is whether e-cigarettes (also known as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems or ENDS) are harmful to public health because they introduce nicotine to nonsmokers or whether they are beneficial because they help smokers of combustion cigarettes quit. The controversy was triggered by some of the public health professionals and organized e-cigarette users (also known as vapers) and sellers who believed that e-cigarettes will completely replace cigarettes among smokers if they are publicized and supported and allowed to be used everywhere, including in smoke-free places. They argue that e-cigarettes are less harmful (and in some cases claim they are completely harmless) than combustion cigarettes. There might be evidence for them being less harmful than cigarettes given e-cigarettes do not have tobacco and the carcinogens it produces, but the claim regarding mass replacement of cigarettes is at best exaggerated and unsubstantiated.

Simply stated, if there was potential for such mass replacement of the more harmful regular cigarette, we would have witnessed this by now since e-cigarette use has been on this rapid rise for some time.

What is happening is that use of e-cigarettes is increasing rapidly among both smokers and nonsmokers, but there is no evidence it is meaningfully helping the smokers who use it to quit, except for anecdotal cases or small studies and experimental controlled settings that do not relate to the general population. However, there is evidence that individuals who never smoked cigarettes but used e-cigarettes are more likely to begin actual cigarette smoking afterward. This is expected given nicotine, delivered by e-cigarettes as vapor, is highly addictive. This is the most serious harm of e-cigarettes that most public health professionals fear will be introduced to teens and young adults who otherwise would not have tried nicotine or got addicted to it. Furthermore, new high-quality evidence is emerging to show that e-cigarettes are more harmful than had been claimed.

There is nothing preventing smokers from trying e-cigarettes instead of the cigarettes they use, but data from many sources show they try them and don’t continue and those who continue on smoke more cigarettes. The U.S. Prevention Task Force and the recent U.S. Surgeon’s General Report did not recommend the use of e-cigarettes for cessation purposes.

The burden of proof is on the producers of such products to show they do not cause harm before making them available to the public. Addiction to nicotine and then reverting to combustion cigarettes, or for smokers to have difficulty in quitting because of higher nicotine from their cigarette and e-cigarettes, is by all means and measures harmful to those individuals and the health of the public. Further, many e-cigarette users want to flout the tobacco smoking bans that were one of the most important among all tobacco control policies to change the social norm of tobacco smoking, protect the public, and also help smokers quit, according to numerous studies.

We have learned from the history of tobacco and its industry that we have to be on the safe side and not overlook or support a product that can cause harm. We are now at a similar stage with e-cigarettes as we were in the early ’70s when supposedly low tar and nicotine cigarettes were glamorized and propagated in the media and by its industry as being a harm reduction approach without substantial independent research to support it, only to find years later they were actually more harmful than regular cigarettes because they made users smoke more.

There is an optimism that the recent decision by the Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes will be the first step in controlling the rampage of them in the market with different flavors, concentrations and harm reduction claims. It took many years to take that step, but better late than never.

We have to err on the safe side and protect the future generations from another source of addiction. Better safe than sorry applies to this situation, and safe here means saving thousands of lives who as a result of e-cigarettes become addicted to nicotine and eventually cigarettes.

Al-Delaimy, M.D., Ph.D., has been the director of the California-wide Tobacco Evaluation Surveys for more than 12 years and is associate director of the UC San Diego Institute for Public Health and has authored many reports and peer-reviewed articles regarding tobacco and e-cigarettes.

No general ban on tobacco advertising

A ban on advertising tobacco products in Switzerland has been rejected by the Swiss senate, who voted on Wednesday to protect a free market economy, rather than support health concerns.

The ban had been called for by the Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset, who said in Parliament that smoking was damaging not only from a health perspective, but also socially and financially.

The cabinet had argued that adverts had a particularly large impact on young people. According to a German study, the risk of young people taking up smoking increased by 46% if they were exposed to adverts for tobacco.

Opponents of the ban argued there was no proof that an advertising ban would stop people smoking.

Worldwide more than five million people die every year as a result of tobacco consumption. In Switzerland that number is 9,500.

Protecting youngsters

The nationwide ban on selling cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors was undisputed, with a majority of parliamentarians explicitly expressing their support for laws protecting children and young people.

In this respect, it was argued, a legal basis is needed for test purchases to ensure shops aren’t selling tobacco to underage customers. A majority also agreed the importance of an existing ban on tobacco adverts directed at minors.

Regional differences

Tobacco advertising is already banned on the radio and on TV in Switzerland, but in 15 cantons billboard advertising is also prohibited.

In ten cantons cigarettes cannot be sold to under 18s, but in other parts of the country they can be sold to 16-year-olds.

In eastern Switzerland, it’s traditional to see children lighting up as part of a special event that centres around a regional cattle show.

State bans sale of e-cigarettes

The government of Karnataka has banned the sale of e-cigarettes in the state, effective immediately, newspaper The Times of India reported.

The decision announced today follows the recommendation of the state’s Minister for Health and Family Welfare, U T Khader, who said a study on e-cigarettes conducted by a committee together with an NGO found that youth were becoming addicted to the products, the newspaper reported.

“The state hereby prohibits the sale (including online sale), manufacture, distribution, trade, import and advertisement of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, its parts and components in any shape or size of cartridges containing nicotine in the interest of the public,” the newspaper quoted a government notice as saying.