Anti-Smoking Advocates Wonder About Shurtleff's Committment

Anti-Smoking Advocates Wonder About Shurtleff's Committment

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Anti-smoking advocates wonder about the degree of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's commitment to their cause.

It was announced this week that Shurtleff had joined 24 other state attorneys general in a letter-writing campaign urging Hollywood to stop glamorizing smoking.

But anti-smoking groups say Shurtleff accepts political donations from the tobacco industry.

"It would seem he's speaking with a forked tongue," said Wayne Davis, executive director of the Utah chapter of the American Lung Association. "He's saying the movie industry needs to take a stand against tobacco, but accepting campaign funds. It's incongruent."

Campaign finance reports in the state elections office show that in 2002, Shurtleff accepted $2,250 from Philip Morris Management Corp. and R.J. Reynolds.

The advocates have been critical of Shurtleff since he urged an Illinois court to reduce the size of a bond that Philip Morris had to post to appeal a verdict ordering the company to pay for misleading marketing tactics.

Philip Morris said the bond would drive it to bankruptcy and force it to renege on paying 46 states, including Utah, their portion of the 1998 national tobacco settlement.

Shurtleff's office gets about $100,000 of Utah's annual multimillion-dollar share of the settlement.

Shurtleff said the donations have no bearing on his anti-smoking efforts.

"Campaign donations have never stopped me from taking action," he said, citing an antitrust lawsuit he helped prosecute against Microsoft, a $5,000 contributor to his 2000 campaign. "If tobacco spends money on me, that's money they don't spend on advertising."

The best way to put cigarette makers out of business is to prevent people from smoking, and that's what the movie industry letter aims to do, said Shurtleff.

Still, Beverly May, a fund-raiser for Utah's Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,says cigarette makers expect something in return for their generosity.

"The tobacco industry puts their money where they feel they can be most effective," often in predominantly Republican areas, May said. "Research has proven that the money affects decision making at the state and federal levels. It's safer and politically prudent not to take the money."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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