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For decades, Big Tobacco focused its political largesse on the U.S. Congress and the presidency. But by 1988, when California voters passed a tough anti-smoking law despite a $15 million campaign against it, the industry knew it needed a more sophisticated strategy. The solution: Fund front groups of consumers or retailers with no obvious ties to tobacco, and use them to push for state "pre-emption" laws.
Tobacco-backed pre-emption laws appear to be stringent anti-smoking measures. The catch is that these measures are weak and supersede any stronger local restrictions on tobacco.