The victory of George W. Bush gives the tobacco industry ample cause to cheer, not only for the president they are getting but the one they narrowly escaped.
Vice president Al Gore has been part of the most anti-tobacco administration in history. Had he captured the White House, cigarette makers could have expected a continuation of the policies of Bill Clinton, who flailed them like a pinata on the issue of underage smoking.
As a business-friendly Republican, Bush won't be disposed to pick fights with Big Tobacco or other major industries, observers say. Concerning smoking and health, he is expected to take a more amicable approach. Look for tobacco to recede "as a hot political issue for the White House," said Martin Feldman, tobacco analyst with Salomon Smith Barney.
The Bush victory is "bad news for us, and party time for tobacco," groused Stan Glantz, a prominent anti-smoking activist and professor at the University of California, San Francisco medical school.
Wall Street investors are counting on it. Since Nov. 7, when it appeared Bush would probably emerge the winner, the S&P 500 index has fallen 6.4 percent, but tobacco stocks have advanced smartly. Industry leader Philip Morris Cos., Inc., has seen its share prices rise 17.7 percent, while number two R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. has leaped 34.3 percent. American depository receipts of British American Tobacco, parent of U.S. cigarette maker Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., have climbed 5.3 percent, and UST Inc., the top marketer of smokeless tobacco, is up 7.7 percent, Feldman said.
Industry officials, however, are taking pains to avoid public displays of glee, while some tobacco control leaders are trying not to sound too glum.
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