We examined the tobacco industry's new strategy to defeat and then repeal tobacco control ordinances in California and the efforts of health professionals to pass and defend these ordinances. Case studies were conducted in California communities in 1991 and 1992, using published reports, public documents, attendance at public meetings, and interviews. The tobacco industry is spending millions of dollars to intervene in California communities to oppose legislation protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. The tobacco industry has moved beyond organizing smokers to use professional public affairs and political campaign firms to defeat or weaken local tobacco control ordinances. The industry used front groups to conceal its involvement because public knowledge of the industry's involvement increases support for legislation controlling smoking. Some firms closely monitor developing ordinances, while others actively organize and direct local opposition. If these efforts do not weaken or defeat an ordinance, the tobacco industry initiates a referendum petition drive to suspend it to pressure local elected officials to repeal or weaken it. If this tactic fails, the industry often finances an election campaign to repeal the ordinance by popular vote. Although the tobacco industry's new strategy has hindered the passage of some local tobacco control ordinances, when health professionals and elected officials remained active and committed, the industry's efforts have failed and the ordinances have been upheld.
Traynor MP, Begay ME, Glantz SA. New Tobacco Industry Strategy to Prevent Local Tobacco Control. JAMA. 1993;270(4):479-486. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510040083034