The news clip below is from a defining moment early in my career in 1993, when I was at the Contra Costa County Public Health Department, joining forces with Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and other local health departments—maybe even with you!—to fight big tobacco. RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris were then creating local “front groups” that used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as a vehicle to harass local health departments. Their strategy was to tie up staff time with requests for copies of all documents related to Prop 99 (tobacco tax funded health education) expenditures. We told the guy making the request in Contra Costa that we were happy to supply the documents, but didn’t have the funds to make the copies for him. He agreed to bring his own copier at an appointed time. See what happens when we organized a “media ambush.”


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