Objectives: This study assessed the perceived effect of tobacco industry allegations of "illegal lobbying" by public health professionals on policy interventions for tobacco control.
Methods: Structured interviews were conducted with state health department project managers in all 17 National Cancer Institute-funded American Stop Smoking Intervention Study (ASSIST) states. Documentation and media records related to ASSIST from the National Cancer Institute, health advocates, and the tobacco industry were analyzed.
Results: The tobacco industry filed formal complaints of illegal lobbying activities against 4 ASSIST states. These complaints had a temporary chilling effect on tobacco control policy interventions in those states. ASSIST states not targeted by the tobacco industry developed an increased awareness of the industry's tactics and worked to prepare for such allegations to minimize disruption of their activities. Some self-reported self-censorship in policy activity occurred in 11 of the 17 states (65%).
Conclusions: Public health professionals need to educate themselves and the public about the laws that regulate lobbying activities and develop their strategies, including their policy activities, accordingly.