POLICY POINTS: The tobacco companies prioritized blocking tobacco-control policies in tobacco-growing states and partnered with tobacco farmers to oppose tobacco-control policies. The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, which settled state litigation against the cigarette companies, the 2004 tobacco-quota buyout, and the companies' increasing use of foreign tobacco led to a rift between the companies and tobacco farmers. In 2003, the first comprehensive smoke-free local law was passed in a major tobacco-growing state, and there has been steady progress in the region since then. Health advocates should educate the public and policymakers on the changing reality in tobacco-growing states, notably the major reduction in the volume of tobacco produced.
Context: The 5 major tobacco-growing states (Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia) are disproportionately affected by the tobacco epidemic, with higher rates of smoking and smoking-induced disease. These states also have fewer smoke-free laws and lower tobacco taxes, 2 evidence-based policies that reduce tobacco use. Historically, the tobacco farmers and hospitality associations allied with the tobacco companies to oppose these policies.
Methods: This research is based on 5 detailed case studies of these states, which included key informant interviews, previously secret tobacco industry documents (available at http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu), and media articles. This was supplemented with additional tobacco document and media searches specifically for this article.
Findings: The tobacco companies were particularly concerned about blocking tobacco-control policies in the tobacco-growing states by promoting a pro-tobacco culture, beginning in the late 1960s. Nevertheless, since 2003, there has been rapid progress in the tobacco-growing states' passage of smoke-free laws. This progress came after the alliance between the tobacco companies and the tobacco farmers fractured and hospitality organizations stopped opposing smoke-free laws. In addition, infrastructure built by National Cancer Institute research projects (COMMIT and ASSIST) led to long-standing tobacco-control coalitions that capitalized on these changes. Although tobacco production has dramatically fallen in these states, pro-tobacco sentiment still hinders tobacco-control policies in the major tobacco-growing states.
Conclusions: The environment has changed in the tobacco-growing states, following a fracture of the alliance between the tobacco companies and their former allies (tobacco growers and hospitality organizations). To continue this progress, health advocates should educate the public and policymakers on the changing reality in the tobacco-growing states, notably the great reduction in the number of tobacco farmers as well as in the volume of tobacco produced.
Keywords: tobacco farmers; tobacco manufacturers; tobacco-control policy; tobacco-growing states.
© 2015 Milbank Memorial Fund.