2013-02-13 20:20:18 - WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 13, 2013): Those who believe the Tea Party is a grassroots movement inspired by higher taxes as its name implies will be surprised to learn that it actually developed in part as a result of efforts by the U.S. tobacco industry to oppose the nonsmokers' rights movement in the 1980s, says the lawyer who started the movement by getting smoking restricted and then banned on airplanes and buses, and then in workplaces and public places both here and abroad.
A well-documented peer-reviewed study, funded by the National Cancer Institute and appearing in a just-released scientific journal, documents how nonprofit organizations closely associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to major tobacco companies, and continue to mouth tobacco industry objections to bans on smoking and to taxes on cigarettes.
Previously secret tobacco industry documents show that the Tea Party is far from being a grassroots movement. Instead, a tobacco-industry-funded group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, started the US Tea Party project to evoke the Boston Tea Party's image of oppressed citizens as part of its industry-supported fight against increased cigarette taxes and bans on smoking.
Indeed, it actually set up a "US Tea Party" website. Interestingly, a tobacco industry
strategist had suggested that the industry "quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts" that would support its propaganda.
Subsequently, Citizens for a Sound Economy split into Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works, two Tea Party organizations.
The researchers conclude: '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, . . . The records indicate that the Tea Party has been shaped by the tobacco industry, and is not a spontaneous grassroots movement at all
"Creating so-called nonprofit organizations to front for it, and to promote its agenda, is nothing new for the tobacco industry," says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who exposed a number of such phony groups while leading the battle to ban smoking in public places.
"When you wear a hat as black as the tobacco industry's, you want some innocent-sounding public interest group to hide behind," argues the man the media has called the "Ralph Nader of the Tobacco Industry," and "Mr. Anti-Smoking."
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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