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Up in flames: House Speaker John Boehner takes new job with Big Tobacco

Posted by Matt Rowland on

Former Speaker of the House John Boehner just landed a new gig with Reynolds American Inc (RAI), parent company of R.J. Reynolds and manufacturer of several popular brands of conventional cigarettes.  After retiring from Congress last year, Boehner decided to join the Big Tobacco firm as a Class II Director while serving on the Corporate Governance, Nominating, and Sustainability Committee.  Boehner is a long-time smoker, and his favorite cigarette of choice is Camel – one of R.J. Reynolds’ top-selling brands.

Why is Rep. John Boehner working for Big Tobacco?

According to recent news reports, Reynolds American needs some help working through a rather tough transitional period of declining sales in recent years due to the rise of “alternative products.”  The term “alternative products” is political-speak for “electronic cigarettes and vaping products.”  Boehner apparently is going to help The Big Tobacco Giant regain some of its former glory and now diminished stronghold on the marketplace.

(Related Article: MARLBORO’S ALTRIA GROUP MEETS WITH FDA: IS BIG TOBACCO FRIEND OR FOE OF VAPING?)

The Ex-Speaker will apparently also be involved in several RAI marketing campaigns involving the prevention of teen smoking.  The non-profit organization Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says that Boehner was picked because of his long-standing ties to Big Tobacco.  A spokesperson for John Boehner issued the following statement.

“RAI is striving to transform the tobacco industry through innovative strategies that include speeding the decline in tobacco use among young people and reducing the harm caused by smoking.  These are objectives Speaker Boehner supports and looks forward to helping RAI advance through his service on the board."

John Boehner’s spokesperson, Dave Schnittger, is so skilled at political rhetoric that he almost makes it sound as if working for a Big Tobacco company is a noble and honorable profession.  And the national media seems to be following suit. 

Is John Boehner getting unfair treatment by the press?

The national press loves to see old politicians re-invent themselves, but almost all of the news articles being published about Boehner’s new job are written in a very positive and congratulatory tone.  Very few are making the connection between a powerful political figure taking the opposite side in the War on Vaping.  Here are just a few of the somewhat biased headlines.

 

Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner's new gig is with the board of a major N.C. company
          - Charlotte Business Journal
Boehner gets a smokin' new job
          - USA Today
Cigarette-Loving John Boehner Just Scored His Dream Job
          - Vanity Fair
Smoker John Boehner Joins Board Of Reynolds Tobacco Company
          - The Huffington Post
Smoker John Boehner Joins Board of Tobacco Company
          - ABC News

 

To be fair, most of these news reports are also including a short snippet about the dangers of smoking somewhere in the later portion of the article.  And at least one newspaper, USA Today, is questioning the true validity of a Big Tobacco company actively trying to curb teen smoking.  In a September 15 article, the newspaper quotes a spokesperson for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids as calling this notion “truly absurd.”

(Related Article:  AFTER ‘INSUFFICIENT RESPONSE,’ SEN. RON JOHNSON SENDS THIRD LETTER ON FDA E-CIG REGULATIONS)


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