Tobacco Industry Lobbied Hard in Connecticut

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Tobacco Industry Lobbied Hard in Connecticut

NEW YORK -- Tobacco companies spent $3.6 million lobbying the Connecticut legislature between 1994 and 2002, according to a new report obtained by the Associated Press that will be released Monday.

That money, according to Common Cause of Connecticut, helped fend off legislative efforts to finance smoking prevention and cessation programs, and killed a bill that would have allowed local cities and towns to pass their own smoking laws.

But some legislators question whether the tobacco industry's investment was well spent, especially because Connecticut raised the state cigarette tax twice this year and passed a ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and workplaces.

John Singleton, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc., said that given the tax increases and smoking ban he doesn't believe Connecticut is a good example of alleged undue political influence by the tobacco industry.

"Our track record in Connecticut hasn't been particularly sterling," Singleton said.

Smoking opponents say they worry the tobacco industry and its allies may chip away at the pending smoking ban. Connecticut restaurants and workplaces will be affected on Oct. 1, while bars and taverns must adhere by April 1, 2004.

Philip Morris spent the most among the tobacco interests during the nine-year period examined by Flynn, paying Connecticut lobbyists $1.5 million. R.J. Reynolds paid their lobbyists $638,349; the Tobacco Institute, a now-defunct industry trade group, spent $376,013; and US Tobacco Inc. spent $366,369.

Six tobacco groups registered to lobby in Connecticut in 2000. According to the report, tobacco allies, businesses and organizations with an interest in the sale and distribution of tobacco spent an additional $427,501 from 1994 through 2002.

The report includes convenience stores, restaurants and bowling alleys among the allies.