Today, ProgressOhio and former Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy presented documents showing the Heritage Foundation collaborated with Big Tobacco to mislead the public about the health dangers of second-hand smoke. Philip Morris drafted a letter asking Heritage to share pro-tobacco propaganda with children.
Internal memos show that Philip Morris requested Heritage contact the EPA to criticize an upcoming study, showing that second-hand smoke was dangerous. When the report was released in 1992, Heritage wrote an op-ed blasting the EPA's finding that second-hand smoke causes cancer, using scare quotes around the words "study", "carcinogens", "secondary [smoke]" and "science".
Philip Morris circulated the article internally, and cited insider details proving they were in contact with Heritage about the piece. Days later, Philip Morris drafted a letter addressed to Heritage praising them for their "article on corruption at the EPA" and hoped that, "Heritage Foundation isn't restricting its audience to adults like myself but also reaching out to children."
Heritage had a close financial relationship with Big Tobacco:
- Philip Morris had the ad agency behind the Marlboro man work with Heritage to create a 20 page survey aimed at increasing Heritage's donors. The survey included questioned designed to figure out which Heritage members had positive opinions about Philip Morris.
- Heritage invited the Tobacco Institute to be a member of their President's Club in exchange for money.
- Heritage was paid a $15,000 a year stipend from RJ Reynolds from 1994 to 1997.
Heritage is currently on a multi-state tour advocating for the defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Former Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy, who voted for the ACA, stated, "These documents show Heritage Foundation has no credibility when it comes to health care. You can't take anything they say at face value."
ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg agreed, saying, "Heritage has proven they can't be trusted when it comes to our health. The Affordable Care Act extends insurance to 3 million young people and eliminates discrimination for pre-existing conditions. For Heritage to tour the country opposing access to health care after what they've done to mislead the public is unconscionable."
Heritage's questionable work on tobacco and public health continued on for decades. In 2007, Heritage repeatedly published work opposing SCHIP expansion, specifically citing concern with raising cigarette taxes. In 2011, Heritage mocked a proposal used successfully in other countries to show graphic pictures of the damage smoking causes on cigarette packaging, saying that "every kindergartner" already knows cigarettes are bad and that "Given teens' current obsession with all things zombie, the gruesome images will likely prove highly popular as collector's items."