Philip Morris Sponsors Events,
Ingratiates New York Lawmakers
While legislators in Albany are deciding how to spend the state's tobacco
settlement money and which tobacco control messages should be placed on
billboards, Philip Morris has been sponsoring and organizing events around
the state that involve some of those same legislators.
The events range
from a $1,000-a-ticket fund raiser in Manhattan to a domestic violence forum
in Westchester. "It's only natural that other leaders have similar
interests and our paths intersect," said Richmond Temple, a Philip Morris
But some tobacco control advocates are concerned about Philip
Morris' sponsorship of these events. "They put out these events that give
elected officials an opportunity to stand up and make speeches and get
newspaper coverage and schmooze with community leaders," said Russell
Sciandra, director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York. "It's no
different from what a lot of corporations do.
The difference is, they do it
on a much larger scale. They're much more focused on the PR value of it,
and they're producing a product that kills people."
Lillian Jones of the American Cancer Society in Westchester is asking
legislators not to attend these events. "One begins to wonder why
politicians would curry favor with people who cost the state that much
money," she said.
But Susan Tolchin, a spokesperson for Westchester County
executive Andrew Spano, who spoke at PM's domestic violence forum, doesn't
see a problem.
"[Spano] has made domestic violence one of his major
priorities of his administration. Westchester County has been in the
forefront in helping to get back its residents' tobacco money. One thing
does not have anything to do with the other."
But legislators are still faced with key decisions that affect the tobacco
Governor George Pataki and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sparked
controversy last month when they decided to put up anti-smoking billboards
featuring teens encouraging their peers not to smoke, not messages critical
of the tobacco industry, which were found to be the most effective messages
in a survey by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Source: Emi Endo, "Philip Morris: Playing Politics?" (New York) NEWSDAY, May 23, 1999, p. A25.
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