The Washington Post

Buyer lobbies for smokeless tobacco

(Chris Goodney/BLOOMBERG)

President Obama recently noted that “you can’t change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside.”

Not so, says Stephen Buyer, the former nine-term GOP lawmaker from Indiana who unsuccessfully challenged federal anti-tobacco regulation when he was on the Hill. (And received more than $100,000 in donations from the industry over the years, according to a report Tuesday from ProPublica.)

“To be an agent of change,” Buyer told the Indiana General Assembly’s Health Finance Commission on Sept. 19, “you can do it from the outside and attack tobacco manufacturers like many anti-tobacco organizations do or you can do it from the inside. I have chosen to be an agent from the inside.”

So now he’s inside — the industry at least — as a consultant and lobbyist for a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc., the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, ProPublica reported.

Buyer famously took to the House floor in 2009 to liken smoking cigarettes to smoking lettuce: “It is the smoke that kills, not the nicotine (see video below)’

And he is still working hard to promote smokeless tobacco — such as chewing tobacco and snuff — as a safe alternative to smoking. (The Food and Drug Administration disagrees.)

Well, inside or out, we trust the lobbying world provides a decent standard of living.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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