By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
In 1984 Gore's sister, Nancy Gore Hunger, died from lung cancer. She was a smoker. Gore made an emotional announcement: He would no longer farm tobacco, and would abandon this family business. But in the same tragic year, other family ties tugged at his heartstrings. An old friend of his father, Al Gore Sr., was Horace Liebengood, then chief lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute and formerly chief of staff for Howard Baker. Liebengood came to Gore Jr. at a moment of crisis. A bill authored by Rep. Henry Waxman, then making its way through Congress, threatened to hobble the industry with restrictions on tobacco advertising and new, more brutal warning labels.
Gore, already anointed the "environmental conscience of the House," heeded Liebengood's urgent call. He offered successful amendments to the Waxman Bill that kept the words "death" and "addiction" from appearing in any warnings, shrank the size of the warning labels, and installed language barring liability suits against tobacco manufacturers who met certain meager requirements and preventing the states from adopting stronger warning label laws.
A year later, Gore was in the U.S. Senate, continuing his efforts on behalf of the tobacco industry. Gore voted to protect anti-trust exemptions for the cartel and his enthusiasm for tobacco price supports never wavered. In the high profile anti-tobacco bill votes of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Al Gore abstained.
Aside from such personal histories, it has been consistent U.S. trade policy to force American tobacco smoke into the lungs of Asians and other likely customers. When Ron Brown ruled the Commerce Department, he threatened to bring GATT complaints against anti-smoking and public health laws in places like Taiwan and South Korea, and worked energetically to open markets such as China to the U.S. product. The Marlboro plant recently opened in Shanghai received millions in loan guarantees courtesy of Secretary Brown.
Brown's successor at Commerce is Mickey Kantor, who has a distinguished tobacco pedigree to flaunt in his resume. In 1992, then a lawyer in Los Angeles, Kantor was hired by the tobacco industry to fend off a proposed ban on smoking in restaurants in LA. He was successful.