Perspective on the Politics of Tobacco

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Paul Bunn, MD

The tobacco industry has always been a major player in congressional races, especially in Southern tobacco-growing states. Moreover, the industry is notoriously bipartisan in their political donations, and members of both parties have returned the favor by voting for tobacco interests.

“The 2014 Surgeon General’s report provides irrefutable evidence that elected officials hold the key to ending death and disease caused by tobacco use,” Harold P. Wimmer, American Lung Association National President and CEO, stressed in a public statement.

However, Paul Bunn, MD, Chair, Lung Cancer Research at the University of Colorado, Denver, gave this sobering assessment to The ASCO Post: “It is likely that the authors of the original Surgeon General’s report would not have foreseen the ability of tobacco companies to hinder efforts to eliminate tobacco smoking in the United States and Big Tobacco’s huge success in promoting smoking in underdeveloped nations. The American public can only view this as additional evidence that the Congress can be easily bought by private monies, and that these monies are more important to them than the public health of our citizens or the millions of citizens around the world who will die 10 to 20 years earlier due to their tobacco addiction.”

Speaking with The ASCO Post, ­Clifford A. Hudis, MD, also commented that American Big Tobacco has had great success at exporting this problem globally. “They successfully challenge labeling and restrictions around the world, sometimes under the guise of the free trade agreements our country signs with others,” he noted. ■

Disclaimer: This commentary represents the views of those individuals interviewed and may not necessarily reflect the views of The ASCO Post or ASCO.

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