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The New York Public Interest Research Group on Wednesday reported a resurgence in lobbying for tobacco interests in Albany and in local governments including Suffolk County.
NYPIRG issued a report that found lobbying spending and campaign contributions from tobacco interests totaled $7 million in the first six months of 2013. That matched the combined total spending in 2011 and 2012, according to state records.
“The tobacco lobby is there, from Buffalo to Montauk,” said Blair Horner of the nonpartisan group. “Their job is basically to snuff out public health measures.”
The report, “Rising from the Ashes,” singles out efforts by tobacco lobbyists to combat measures in Suffolk County. Those measures have included a proposal to raise the legal age for buying tobacco products to 21, from 19 years old.
Retailers at a recent hearing said the measure would be “debilitating” to their business. Health advocates said it would keep young people from starting to smoke.
The report criticized the Cuomo administration for what NYPIRG considers too little funding for anti-smoking programs including public service messages. NYPIRG also criticizes the state Democratic Committee for accepting donations from tobacco interests.
“This administration takes the public health dangers posed by tobacco products very seriously and have steadfastly supported programs to prevent teens from smoking,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “This commitment has helped result in a teen smoking rate in New York that’s hit a 14-year low. Despite what special interests may lead you to believe, the answer is not always more money.”
The Democratic committee didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The Senate Republican and Senate Democratic conferences also accept donations from tobacco interests. The Democrats didn’t comment.
“Spinning old issues is not what New York needs,” said David Laska of the state Republican Committee. “New York needs to address our sorry status as the most taxed, most regulated, least business-friendly, least economically free, least personally free state in America.”