The tobacco industry is mounting an all-out campaign to derail or modify legislation imposing new restrictions on smoking in public in New York City. Philip Morris has warned that it will consider moving its headquarters out of New York if the bill passes.
The City Council's Health Committee is to hold a hearing and possibly a vote on the bill Monday, which would outlaw smoking in nearly all restaurants and public places. While the bill will not be voted on by the full council for weeks, lobbying is under way.In the past few days council members have faced a barrage of letters, requests for meetings, full-page newspaper advertisements, nonstop faxes and unending telephone calls. The lobbying comes from opponents like the Tobacco Institute and the United Restaurant, Hotel, Tavern Association, as well as supporters like the American Cancer Society and Harlem Hospital.
Philip Morris, which employs about 2,000 workers in its Park Avenue headquarters, has heightened the pressure by threatening to leave the city and by mobilizing arts organizations that it under-writes.
"It has been communicated to officials of the city that if the bill is passed, it would cause us to reconsider having our headquarters in New York City," said Steven C. Parrish, senior vice president and general counsel of Philip Morris, the world's largest cigarettemaker.
"Our employees are concerned that the city seems to be attacking our company and our industry. This bill is very, very important to us."
The measure, introduced in March by Speaker Peter F. Vallone, would be one of the most stringent in the nation, banning smoking in all restaurants and in most office areas, as well as many outdoor places like stadiums.