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Mobilising public opinion for the tobacco industry: the consumer tax alliance and excise taxes
  1. R Campbell,
  2. E D Balbach
  1. Tufts University, Community Health Program, Medford, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Dr Richard Campbell, Tufts University, Community Health Program, 112 Packard Avenue, Medford, MA 02155, USA; Richard.Campbell{at}


Background: Tobacco industry funding was instrumental in creating and financing the Consumer Tax Alliance in 1989 as an organisation that relied upon extensive media outreach to build opposition to excise taxes as a regressive form of taxation. By obscuring its own role in this effort, the tobacco industry undermined the public’s reasonable expectations for transparency in the policy-making process.

Aim: To examine the formation and activities of the Consumer Tax Alliance as a “hybrid” form of interest group in order to provide tobacco control and public health advocates with a better understanding of unanticipated tobacco industry coalitions and facilitate appropriate countermeasures.

Methods: Document searches through the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library and through Tobacco Documents Online and review of background literature.

Results: The Tobacco Institute actively sought liberal allies beginning in the mid-1980s in seeking to build public opposition to cigarette excise tax increases by promoting them as a regressive form of taxation. The creation of the Consumer Tax Alliance in 1989 was expressly intended to turn labour and middle-class opinion against prospective excise tax increases in federal budget deficit negotiations, without divulging the tobacco industry’s role in its formation.

Conclusion: It is important to understand the dynamic by which trusted organisations can be induced to alter their agendas in response to funding sources. Advocates need to understand this form of interest group behaviour so that they are better able to negotiate the policy arena by diagnosing and exposing this influence where it occurs and, by doing so, be better prepared to take appropriate countermeasures.

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • Funding: Funded by NCI Grant R01CA095964. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Cancer Institute or the National Institutes of Health.