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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Their Health Under Threat, Tobacco's Giants Bleed Cash

WASHINGTON -- Feeling its own health threatened, the tobacco industry in the United States spent millions of dollars in the first half of 1996 to thwart government efforts to curtail teenage smoking, raise the industry's taxes and restrict its advertising.

Reports filed with the government show companies with heavy interests in tobacco issues spent more than $15 million during the period.

Industry giant Philip Morris led the way with $11.3 million, according to the first-ever reports disclosing special interests' real expenses in lobbying Congress, federal agencies and the White House.

Philip Morris has extensive holdings in non-tobacco businesses such as Kraft foods, but reports indicate the bulk of its lobbying efforts related to tobacco matters.

Companies are not required to break down their total lobbying spending by business category.

Congressional clerks who reviewed the reports say Philip Morris' total appeared to be the largest so far among around 12,000 companies and groups that filed midyear reports over the past two months.

"We have had a lot of federal attention from regulators and the White House," said Thomas Lauria, a spokesman for the Tobacco Institute, a trade association. "It's never easy communication, because tobacco is controversial on many, many levels."

The industry, once given deference in Washington, has seen its credibility eroded by allegations that executives covered up knowledge of the addictive nature of cigarettes, said Michael Pertschuk, an anti-tobacco researcher and activist at the Advocacy Institute.