Tea Party’s Ties to Tobacco Industry Date Back to 1980s: Nonprofit Tea Party Groups Promote Pro-Tobacco Agenda

Rather than being a purely grassroots movement that arose spontaneously in 2009, the Tea Party developed in part as a result of tobacco industry efforts to oppose smoking restrictions and tobacco taxes beginning in the 1980s, according to a study by researchers at UC San Francisco.

“Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party movement have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry’s anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda,” said senior author Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education (CTCRE) and a UCSF professor of medicine and American Legacy Foundation Distinguished Professor in Tobacco Control.

The study, which appears on Feb. 8, 2013 in the journal Tobacco Control, shows that rhetoric and imagery evoking the 1773 Boston Tea Party were used by tobacco industry representatives as early as the 1980s as part of an industry-created “smokers’ rights’’ public relations campaign opposing increased cigarette taxes and other anti-smoking initiatives.

From previously secret tobacco industry documents available at the UCSF Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, IRS filings and other publicly available documents, the study authors traced a decades-long chain of personal, corporate and financial relationships between tobacco companies, tobacco industry lobbying and public relations firms and nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party.

The research uncovered the tobacco industry’s ongoing opposition to health care reform, dating back to a major campaign waged against President Bill Clinton’s proposed 75 cent cigarette tax to help finance it.

“Tea party symbolism is nothing new for cigarette companies and their allies, which for many years have been cynically using a hallowed symbol of American freedom in order to advance their own interests,” said co-author Rachel Grana, PhD, a CTCRE fellow.

The UCSF researchers sounded a call for greater transparency of organization funding “so that policymakers and the general public – including people who identify with the Tea Party – can evaluate claims of political support for, and opposition to, health and other public policies.’’

The Role of Citizens for a Sound Economy

In 2002, before the mainstream media widely discussed Tea party politics, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a nonprofit funded in part by cigarette companies since 1987 to support a pro-tobacco political agenda, started its US Tea Party project. Its website  (http://www.usteaparty.com) stated “Our US Tea Party is a national event, hosted continuously online and open to all Americans who feel our taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated.’’

In 2004, CSE split into the Tea Party organizations Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and Freedom Works. Those two groups, say the authors, have since waged campaigns to turn public opinion against tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws and health care reform in general.

“If you look at CSE, AFP and Freedom Works, you will see a number of the same key players, strategies and messages going back to the 1980s,” said lead author Amanda Fallin, PhD, RN, also a CTCRE fellow. “The records indicate that the Tea Party has been shaped by the tobacco industry, and is not a spontaneous grassroots movement at all.”

While it is well known that corporations can influence policy, the study “demonstrates the extent to which a particular industry has leveraged its resources to indirectly affect public policy,’’ the authors write.  “The tobacco companies funded one of the main Tea Party predecessor organizations, CSE, as well as other conservative organizations…to support the companies’ broader economic and political agendas.’’

The researchers also warn of the Tea Party’s efforts to push its political agenda in other countries, pointing out that the Tea Party movement has begun to spread internationally, with Freedom Works training activists in 30 countries including Israel, Georgia, Japan, Nigeria and Serbia. The international expansion “makes it likely’’ that Tea Party organizations will mount opposition to tobacco control and other health policies “as they have done in the United States,’’ the authors wrote. 

“Tobacco control advocates in the United States and around the world need to be very aware of the connections between Big Tobacco and the Tea Party movement and its associated organizations,” Glantz said.

The research was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (CA113710 and CA087472).

Fallin will present the paper at the annual UCSF CTCRE “It’s About a Billion Lives” symposium in Cole Hall Auditorium on the UCSF Parnassus campus on Friday, Feb.8, 2013. The symposium begins at 8:30 a.m. and the paper will be presented at approximately 9:30 a.m. The symposium is open to the public and will be webcast at http://lecture.ucsf.edu/special-events/billion-lives/ (go to 1:17:40).

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

The full paper is available for free here.


TP paper top downloaded paper in Tob Control for 9th month

Thanks for all for your continuing interest!  
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Some of the coverage of the paper

, 2013

Most of the comments on the paper came from Tea Party sympathizers who concentrated on the fact that this work was done as part of a National Cancer Institute study that includes analysis of how the tobacco companies create and work through "third parties" to oppose tobacco control policies.  None of the Tea Party sympathizers really engaged the substance of the paper.

Jack Rice show: http://www.am950radio.com/am950-podcasts/jack-rice-show-archive Click on Hour Two of May 12, 2013.

Union of Concerned Scientists Got Science? "Smoke, Mirrors and Hot Air" Redux: Tea Party Edition

Tea party exposed as agent of Big Tobacco?  http://www.bizpacreview.com/2013/02/10/tea-party-exposed-as-agent-of-big-tobacco-19513

Taxpayer dollars used to fund studyattempting to link Tea Party to tobacco lobby http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/15/taxpayer-dollars-used-to-fund-study-tying-tea-party-to-tobacco-lobby/#ixzz2LGh69848

Mike Siegel (of course) http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2013/02/article-highlights-tea-party.html

About Those Tobacco Connections…  http://donnalaframboise.mensnewsdaily.com/2013/02/about-those-tobacco-connections/

Al Gore: False Spontaneity of the Tea Party  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/al-gore/tea-party-koch-brothers-big-tobacco_b_2689380.html

Reason (Jacob Sullum): Revealed:Big Tobacco Invented the Tea Party! http://reason.com/blog/2013/02/14/revealed-big-tobacco-invented-the-tea-pa

Rolling Stone:Big Tobacco's Tea Party Ties Exposed:New study shows links going back decades http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/big-tobaccos-tea-party-ties-exposed-20130213

Think Progress (Climate Progress):  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/02/11/1573061/study-confirms-tea-party-was-created-by-big-tobacco-and-pollutocrat-kochs/

DeMelle from DeSMogBlog: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brendan-demelle/study-confirms-tea-party-_b_2663125.html  

Grandia: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kevin-grandia/new-academic-research-fin_b_2663001.html

NIH-Funded Conspiracy Theory Smearing Tea Party Gets Even Wackier  http://www.openmarket.org/2013/02/18/nih-funded-conspiracy-theory-smearing-tea-party-gets-even-wackier/ 

Raw Story; Documents reveal tobacco companies funded their own ‘tea party’ first: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/02/11/documents-reveal-tobacco-companies-funded-their-own-tea-party-first/

John Mashey:TEA Party: Tobacco Everywhere Always: http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/02/11/tea-party-tobacco-everywhere-always (also at http://features.rr.com/article/0eej7vUfaT9gY?q=Global+Warming )

Medical press:  http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-02-tea-party-ties-tobacco-industry.html

Garden Web:Study: Tea Party Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaires:   http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/hottopics/msg0213060615278.html?2

Youth Climate Forum:Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaires http://youthclimate.org/study-confirms-tea-party-was-created-by-big-tobacco-and-billionaires-605490/

Democratic Underground:  http://www.democraticunderground.com/1251285804

Sierra Foothills Report:  http://sierrafoothillsreport.com/2013/02/10/tea-partys-ties-to-tobacco/

CNS News: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/us-govt-cancer-research-tobacco-industrys-astroturfing-helped-create-tea-party

KSFO: http://www.ksfo560.com/common/page.php?pt=AUDIO+ALERT%3A+Amanda+Fallin%2C+postdoctoral+fellow+at+the+Center+for+Tobacco+Control+Research+and+Educa&id=3924&is_corp=0

Daily Kos: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/02/25/1189761/-Big-Tobacco-Had-Nothing-to-Do-With-Tea-Party-Formation#

Dick Puddlecoat:  http://dickpuddlecote.blogspot.fr/2013/03/the-tobacco-industry-is-more-honest.html

This is truly awesome

This is truly awesome research, with a extensive documentation (184 footnotes in the article, 161 in the Supplementary Material), worth every penny.

You've got to be kidding me!

Wow. People will believe anything. And they used money intended to be used for cancer patients to do this? I'm not a TP'er but I do have common sense and can spot political persuasion when I see it. Whether the tobacco company used any image in the past has absolutely no relevance to the modern day grassroots movement that now exists. They also use George Washington's impersonator to sell cars for President's Day. Means absolutely nothing and this university should be prosecuted for misusing research dollars. Sickening.

FW and AFP's continuing work for Big Tobacco

Quite the contrary, here are some very recent examples of AFP's and FreedomWorks' opposition to tobacco control policies.

- 2012: Americans for Prosperity testified in Kansas in favor of an exemption for bars in the statewide smoking ban  http://www.khi.org/news/2012/may/02/bill-would-exempt-bars-smoking-ban/  where they state their continued opposition to the statewide smoking banhttp://media.khi.org/news/documents/2012/05/02/sontag.pdf

- 2012 and 2013: Opposition to a cigarette tax is included In the Virginia-AFP state chapter and North Carolina state chapters' legislative agenda http://americansforprosperity.org/virginia/newsroom/afp-va-2013-legislative-agenda-2/ and http://americansforprosperity.org/north-carolina/about/

-  2012: In a post on the FreedomWorks site, the increase on the federal excise tax on tobacco products in 2009 is cited as an example of unfair tax increases http://www.freedomworks.org/blog/grusbf5/obama-lies-taxes-rise

Full study?

Where can I find the full study? I'd like to see the entire thing before I comment. Thanks. Dot