The African-American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) has claimed victory and ownership over the City of Sacramento’s Law and Legislation Committee passing recent proposed legislation to bar less harmful products from sale. Not Blowing Smoke calls upon the Internal Revenue Service, the City of Sacramento and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to investigate AATCLC’s efforts to influence legislation as a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The limits placed on lobbying efforts by 501(c)3 non-profit organizations (i.e. charitable organizations accepting tax-deductible donations) are extremely well defined in IRS tax code and can lead to the loss of an organization’s tax-exempt status.
The AATCLC has been a driving force behind many municipal policies related to both tobacco and vapor products in California. In particular, their pursuit of prohibitionist policy changes related to the sale of flavored vapor products (i.e. “flavor bans”). Most of their activities revolve around urging the public to contact legislators and policy-makers to oppose harm reduction, meeting with city and county officials in a lobbying capacity and actively advocating in legislative circles for the adoption of said policies. It is our belief that many of these efforts constitute lobbying. Neither AATCLC nor Carol McGruder are registered with the State of California as lobbying entities but regularly engage in lobbying activity.
Over the past two years, AATCLC has expanded beyond educational materials and charitable work. Ms. McGruder, on behalf of AATCLC, has openly asserted ownership over the recent effort in Sacramento, praising the Law and Legislation Committee’s adoption of “our ordinance to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products”.
It is time for the AATCLC to face the unintended consequences of their extensive lobbying activities, similar to how small businesses, smokers, and California youths will have to face the unintended consequences of bad public policy proposed and supported by AATCLC. The open admission by AATCLC of their ownership of lobbying the City of Sacramento should serve as a basis for a thorough review of the organization’s lobbying efforts by the appropriate regulatory bodies.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is about efforts to combat underage nicotine use and should not be an all-out legislative assault on consumers of vapor products, which science agrees are conservatively speaking at least 95% safer than combustible cigarettes. This should not be an all out war on small manufacturers and retailers who are instrumental in helping smokers quit the habit. And this should most of all not be a playing field where organizations become “bad actors” by clouding the issue. Underage use of nicotine products is an issue that we, as a society, policy-makers, and true public health advocates, can work on and figure out without resorting to draconian forms of prohibition which historically have been proven to never work.