Objective: To evaluate the influence of tobacco industry campaign donations, district location, and political party affiliation on tobacco control legislation among members of the US Congress.
Design: Data were obtained from the Federal Election Commission on money contributed by the 10 leading tobacco political action committees and by tobacco industry-aligned individuals to members of the US House of Representatives (1991-1992) and Senate (1987-1992). Logistic regression analyses were performed using recorded votes and cosponsorship activities concerning tobacco control legislation during the 102nd and 103rd Congresses and membership on the House Congressional Task Force on Tobacco and Health as the dependent variables and tobacco money received, party, district location, and caucus or committee membership as the independent variables.
Setting: United States Congress in 1991 and 1992.
Main outcome measure: Support for federal tobacco control legislation.
Results: The tobacco industry donated approximately $2.4 million to members of Congress from January 1991 through December 1992. House members received an average of $2943 (1991-1992) and senators received an average of $11,593 (1987-1992). The more tobacco money a member received, the less likely the member was to support tobacco control legislation. In the Senate, on a vote to end the taxpayer subsidy of tobacco products in military stores, the odds ratio that senators in the top quartile of tobacco money recipients did not support the measure vs senators in the lowest quartile of tobacco money recipients was 42.2 (95% confidence interval, 4.1 to 430.0; P < .001). In the House, on a vote to end a $3.5 million subsidy to promote American tobacco abroad, the odds that House members in the top third of tobacco money recipients would oppose the legislation were 14.4 times greater (95% confidence interval, 5.5 to 39.0; P < .001) than for House members in the lowest third of tobacco money recipients. Receiving more tobacco money, being a member of the Republican party, and representing a tobacco-producing state were all associated with decreased support for tobacco control issues. The amount of tobacco money received was the variable most strongly and consistently associated with a lack of support for tobacco control legislation, even when we controlled for additional factors such as district location and party.
Conclusion: Tobacco industry contributions to members of the US Congress strongly influence the federal tobacco policy process. Unless this influence is diminished through a combination of members refusing tobacco money and campaign finance reform, this process of contributing to death by thwarting tobacco control will continue to claim hundreds of thousands of lives a year.