Property Rights Groups: Carrying the Tobacco Industry Torch

Documents show the tobacco industry considers the growth of public smoking restrictions to be the single greatest threat to their profits, as such measures limit where people can smoke, and reinforce that nicotine addiction is unacceptable. While even the tobacco industry's own polls show widespread public support for smoke-free measures, the industry continues to incite opposition to such legislation using third party organizations or "surrogates." Historically, traditional industry surrogates that opposed public smoking laws have been restaurant, bar and tavern associations. These organizations justified their action in part by claiming such bans would cut into business profits. Today, there are dozens of studies that demonstrate this perception is unfounded.

Document researchers now have evidence that suggests a change in industry strategy (possibly as a result of the numerous studies showing smoke-free legislation does not decrease business revenue). Property rights groups are starting to lead the opposition to smoke-free initiatives and ordinances. We see this presently in Lubbock, Texas. A group calling themselves "Lubbock Citizens for Private Property Rights" recently surfaced to oppose a smoke-free measure. A similar movement began in Montrose, Colorado from a group called "Committee to Preserve Property Rights."

Documents show Philip Morris (PM) views property rights groups as allies. PM's interest in these organizations appears to have started around 1995, when the "Defenders of Property Rights" (DPR) wrote to PM and offered to help "placate the anti-smoking movement." Their proposed strategy was to portray anti-tobacco measures as intrusions on private property. By equating "property" with "economic liberty," the group suggested they could help PM deflect the youth smoking issue. DPR urged PM to focus on a corporate program of overtly trying to dissuade underage teens from smoking while employing buzzwords like "individual freedom," "responsibility" and "decision-making" (research shows such perceptions about smoking increase youth smoking initiation). DPR is a prestigious organization. Its national advisory board lists prominent figures such as Robert Bork, Orrin Hatch, Ed Meese and James Watt. Former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton (now head of the U.S. Department of the Interior) is listed as a member of its legal advisory board.

The strategy of portraying smoking bans as intrusions on private property is highly advantageous for the industry. It shifts discussion about secondhand smoke away from public health, and appeals to a wide social base, as the "property rights" issue has a strong appeal to many businesses and property owners. This strategy also allows the industry to appear to defend the U.S. Constitution -- much like their efforts to defend personal smoking behavior as a basic freedom. It is also no surprise this tactic first appeared in rural areas of the western U.S., where defense of private property rights frequently is a rallying call to action.


Mr. Craig L. Fuller
Senior Vice President
Corporate Affairs
Philip Morris Companies, Inc.
120 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Dear Craig,

The company's initiative, Action Against Access, to restrict under-age smoking, by itself is unlikely to placate the anti-smoking movement. More importantly, the general public may not be persuaded that the industry is going enough to educate the young on smoking. If so, this could result in a demand for more active measures, confronting the company with having to work openly against its own market interests, and forcing it to unilaterally give ground on a constitutional right -- the right to own and use property.

We have a solution to propose. One that will:
a.. Educate the under-aged on the inadvisability of smoking and, yet, retain and extol the principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility and decision-making.
b.. Actively involve in this educational process the two most important consistencies in the marketing of tobacco products: the retailers and the advertising industry.
c.. Promote principles of freedom, tolerance and Accommodation.
Property rights is at the center of this proposal. With the expansion of the regulatory state, Americans need to understand that the more power they concede to government, the less direct control they retain over their own lives and personal decision-making...

...As you will recall, nowhere in the Constitution are the words economic liberty used, rather it is property. The Founding Fathers recognized that property was the bulwark against the encroachment of government and the people's defense of their economic and political liberties.

As government continues to intrude in the national life, so the arbitrary and unconstitutional seizure of private property (takings) and control of its use by regulation (regulatory takings) rises...

...Our solution involves a three-part strategy:
a.. Take the moral high ground by making property rights the issue.
b.. Take Action Against Access a stage further by addressing the young on the inadvisability of smoking, but extol the principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility and decision-making.
c.. Involve the company's retailers and the advertising industry in this educational process.
The advertising industry may well be divided on the issue of smoking, but an educational program, as this one, that seeks to dissuade the young from smoking, while championing individual freedom and responsibility, should win considerable support.

Central to this whoel proposition is that the message, if it is to get through to the young, must be presented on their terms. For this reason, it should be based on the one concept valued about all others by young people -- personal freedom and decision-making.

...If the advertising industry has the creative and communications resources to give the program the communications outreach it will need, the retailers by virtue of their geographical dispersion and interaction with the public are important to making it work in practice. But the firing pin is property rights.

We have the specifics on how to bring all these elements together and build a national communications campaign. So if the concept is of interest, we would be pleased to get together with you or your representatives to discuss it. As a 501 (c) 3 legal defense foundation and national property rights leader, our objective is to protect property rights from the regulatory state and, in part, to do this by raising public awareness of how property rights are being adversely affected by government regulation of the marketplace.

As the right to own property is the cornerstone of our culture and free enterprise system, it is the one issue capable of uniting all Americans and creating public support on a national scale.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Ian MacKenzie
Policy Advisor

[Italicized emphasis appears in the original]

Anne Landman, Regional Program Coordinator & Daily Document List Editor
American Lung Association of Colorado, West Region Office

Document Title: none
Company/Organization: Defenders of Property Rights
Author: Mackenzie, I - Policy Affairs, Defenders of Property Rights
Recipient: Fuller, CL (Senior VP of Corporate Affairs, Philip Morris)
Site: Philip Morris -- 2048253703/3705
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