Public Comment

Measure D and Tobacco Tactics

Carol Denney
Friday October 17, 2014 - 12:04:00 PM

“Our record in defeating state smoking restrictions has been reasonably good. Unfortunately, our record with respect to local measures…has been somewhat less encouraging…Over time, we can lose the battle over smoking restrictions just as decisively in bits and pieces-at the local level-as with state or federal measures.” -Raymond Pritchard, Brown & Williamson. US Tobacco & Candy Journal, July 18, 1986.

The fight for smokefree air, robust at local levels of government, is more precarious at the state level where well-paid lobbyists can dangle funding in front of strapped politicians’ re-election campaigns. Big Tobacco, like Big Soda, knows the way around all the state capitols and watches closely for any opportunity to pre-empt local laws with state restrictions limiting local cities’ right to initiate local protective measures. 

The pioneering local fights for clean air which are creating behavioral and cultural shifts nationwide are also creating unmistakable political shifts at some state levels, but state politics at the state level remains vulnerable to corporate wealth and political pressure. The state level is the corporate lobbyist’s playground. 

That is where Berkeley comes in. Berkeley’s support for Measure D despite Big Soda’s avalanche of deceptive advertising won’t just help fund local health programs; it will send a message nationwide that our community values children’s health, can’t be shaken by corporate lies, and can help set a standard at the local level which other communities can emulate. 

Walker Merryman of the Tobacco Institute said it best in 1991 “It’s barely controlled chaos [at the local level]. We can’t be everywhere at once.” 

The Daily Planet’s editor hasn’t endorsed Measure D, sidetracked by the idea that sugary soda is only one factor in the current health crisis for kids, which is an excellent point. But the larger issue, as Big Soda’s waterfall of campaign materials proves, is local control.