Union women, the tobacco industry, and excise taxes: a lesson in unintended consequences

Am J Prev Med. 2009 Aug;37(2 Suppl):S121-5. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.05.011.


Between 1987 and 1997, the tobacco industry used the issue of cigarette excise tax increases to create a political partnership with the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), a group representing female trade unionists in the U.S. This paper documents how the industry created this relationship and the lessons tobacco-control advocates can learn from the industry's example, in order to mitigate possible unintended consequences of advocating excise tax increases. In 1998, under the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement, the tobacco industry began making documents produced in litigation available publicly. Currently, approximately 50 million pages are available online, including substantial documentation of the industry-CLUW relationship. For this study, a comprehensive search of these documents was conducted. The tobacco industry encouraged CLUW's opposition to excise tax increases by emphasizing the economic regressivity of these taxes, discussing excise taxes generically to deflect attention from cigarettes, and encouraging opposition to earmarking cigarette taxes to pay for specific programs. In addition, CLUW received at least $221,500 in financial support between 1987 and 1997 and in-kind support for its conferences, membership materials, and other services. Excise tax increases, if pursued without considering the impacts they may have on low-SES populations, may have unintended consequences. In this case, such proposals may have helped to create a relationship between CLUW and the tobacco industry. Because excise taxes are endorsed in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, tobacco-control advocates must understand how to build relationships with low-SES populations and mitigate potential alliances with the tobacco industry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor Unions*
  • Lobbying*
  • Taxes / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Tobacco Industry*
  • United States