Tobacco Defender in Congress Now Paid Lobbyist

Steve Buyer once compared it to lettuce
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2012 4:55 PM CDT
Then Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., asks a question during testimony on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

(Newser) – It takes a man of strong conviction to stand up in Congress and compare tobacco to lettuce—he was talking about the smokeless variety, but still. Well, Steve Buyer is no longer a congressman, and, hey, what do you know, he just landed a job as consultant and lobbyist for RJ Reynolds, reports ProPublica. The Indiana Republican served 18 years and was a staunch advocate of Big Tobacco, leading the unsuccessful charge in 2008-09 against a bill to let the FDA regulate tobacco, followed by the unsuccessful charge to delay said bill for a decade.

Around the same time, Buyer got $80,000 in political donations from RJ Reynolds. “To be an agent of change you can do it from the outside and attack tobacco manufacturers like many anti-tobacco organizations do," says Buyer of the new job. "Or you can do it from the inside. I have chosen to be an agent of change from the inside.” As for the tobacco-lettuce comparison in 2009, here's the quote:

  • "You could have smoked that lettuce and you still end up with the same problems. You could cut the grass in your yard, dry it, and roll it up in a cigarette, and smoke it—and you're still going to have a lot of problems. It is the smoke that kills, not the nicotine.”
Read ProPublica's full story here. Or see an auto-tuned version of that lettuce speech here. (Read more RJ Reynolds stories.)

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