Tobacco Education Center

Accommodation/Pre-emption Program (2000)

February 6, 2000

Ellen Merlo, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Philip Morris, gives the most revealing speeches.

This speech describes Philip Morris' strategy and political activities in the New England states. In it, Merlo directly links Philip Morris' "Accommodation Program" to its enacting of pre-emption laws at the state level, even running the words together into a single term, "Accommodation/Pre-emption."

She gives a complete nuts-and-bolts run down of what she refers to as "our preemption strategy" and "our preemption bills," boldly claiming company ownership of this novel political strategy to stop people from taking action on smoking and health issues in their own communities.

She tells us PM's goal to enact their preemption bills in all 50 states. She tells us about PM's strategy to reign in boards of health, whose free-standing power to enact regulations PM fears.

She also tells us that Philip Morris is not above pressing their own sales force, employees and even external employees at Kraft and Miller Beer, into taking political action on their behalf, and she makes clear that they also use the grocers associations and restaurant associations to do their bidding.

According to Merlo, even your friendly local convenience store owner may actually be the eyes and ears of the Philip Morris Tobacco Company, reporting back on health-related efforts in your town.

Documents like these reveal how deeply this corporation is involved in opposing public health measures, right down to the street corner level in little cities and towns throughout the country.

But then, they also tell us where WE can be most successful at getting around them, too.

Title: no title
Type of Document: Speech, Presentation
Author: Ellen Merlo (of Philip Morris)
Date: 19941024
Site: Philip Morris Document site
Bates No. : 2040236685/6706


...It never ceases to impress me how willing the members of the (Philip Morris) sales force are to go above and beyond the call of duty in helping us fight our political battles, and how effective you are once you get into the fight.

In addition, we felt that this issue [a proposed Federal Excise Tax increase] was so critical to the entire company that members of the corporate affairs staff went into the field to mobilize employees at Miller and Kraft General Foods...

...Our top priority in fighting the proliferation of smoking bans and restrictions can be summed up in two words: "ACCOMMODATION" and "PREEMPTION."

"ACCOMMODATION" means that, as an alternative to smoking bans, we support reasonable accommodation for both smokers and non-smokers...In just a moment, I'll fill you in on the Accommodation program...

First, though, let me say a word about our preemption strategy.

Accommodation/Pre-emption laws are laws at the state level, and they are composed of two basic elements: first, they regulate smoking in a way that provides for reasonable accommodation of both smokers and non-smokers....second, they supersede, or "pre-empt" bans or other restrictions at the local level. Because these laws have the effect of making accommodation standard policy throughout the state, we refer to them as "accommodation/pre-emption" laws.

So far, over the past few years, we have passed some form of accommodation/pre-emption legislation in 29 states...One of PM USA's most important political objectives for the coming year and into the future is to obtain some form of Accommodation/Pre-emption in all 50 states.

As we strive to enact Accommodation/Pre-emption in the state legislatures, we are promoting accommodation in the private sector through the Accommodation program...Program participants display the distinctive green and red symbol to inform potential customers of their accommodation policy.

...Sales force members who have become ambassadors for the Accommodation program have been essential in helping us spread the word to businesses in their area.

..ASSIST funding gives the antis in Maine and other states deep pockets to lobby for smoking and marketing restrictions on the local level. The presence of ASSIST funds makes enacting smoking accommodation and marketing pre-emption priorities for us in Maine during 1995. The priorities and strategies for New Hampshire are nearly identical to those in Maine....

...We will be working with the lodging and restaurant association, and using the Accommodation program to push for smoking pre-emption. And we will be working to enact state-wide marketing preemption...

We already have state-wide preemption in Vermont, but it's not exactly what we had in mind....We will be attempting to add exemptions to the state smoking law, softening it wherever we can....We will monitor the state closely, using sales force member and retail outlets where possible, and attempt to oppose any local advertising bans or marketing restrictions as they come up.

In Massachusetts, the Pre-emption/Accommodation situation at the state level can best be described as a stalemate....As a result, virtually all of the action on smoking and tobacco marketing is at the local level, precisely the situation preemption is meant to avoid....In this situation, with statewide pre-emption at a standstill and local activity rampant, we realized we had to have some way to control the bleeding. We needed an effective system to let us know when and where local laws were being proposed, either at town meetings, in the local city councils or by Boards of Health.

Working with the New England Convenience Store Association and other tobacco companies, we developed a network whereby local retailers could assist us by providing information on legislative activities in every Massachusetts Community. We've discovered that if we have enough advance notice...and get somebody there for the public hearing, we can make a difference.

Activity on the local level has prompted pro-active state legislation to help make our local battles more manageable. For example, we're supporting a bill that would require local boards of health to send a legal notice through the mail to every business in town when they plan to propose a local smoking or tobacco marketing restriction.

Historically, the farther we get from the ground, the better chance we have a defeating a proposal.

At the level of the town meeting, we're almost always killed.

At the board of health level, we do better.

At the city council level, we do very well.

And at the state level we do great.

So, while our pre-emption bill is tied up in the legislature, we're supporting state legislation to require that all smoking and cigarette marketing ordinances at the local level must go through the city council. We call this "venue restriction language" and it might prove to be the only type of preemption we can reasonably expect to get in Massachusetts.

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Anne Landman, Regional Program Coordinator and List Editor
American Lung Association of Colorado, West Region Office
Grand Junction, CO
(970) 245-2120