For Immediate Release: February 18, 2008
Sen. Bass says Bill Would Protect Privacy and Public Health
An aggressive marketing ploy by tobacco companies is putting private information and public health of Oklahoma young adults at risk. That’s according to State Sen. Randy Bass who has authored legislation aimed at the use of driver license scanning.
“The tobacco companies have representatives that go to bars catering to college kids. They offer the student a free sample, but ask to see their driver license first to make sure they’re at least 18,” Bass explained. “But the tobacco representative then scans the driver license with a hand-held reader that captures every bit of data, including name, age, address and other information.”
Bass said the information is then used in an aggressive, direct-marketing campaign. Armed with the individual’s personal information, the tobacco companies begin sending coupons and promotional material, including money clips, cigarette holders and shot glasses. The coupons, which can be redeemed for tobacco products, then help the company continue to track their new customer.
“First of all, there is the very real concern about personal privacy and whether this data could be used to commit identity theft,” said Bass, D-Lawton. “But people need to know how aggressively the tobacco companies are working to hook our young people on tobacco. They’re spending $245.8 million a year in Oklahoma alone to get people addicted.”
Senate Bill 1745 would make it a misdemeanor to scan driver licenses and to store or sell the data collected. Bass said one concern is that people don’t even realize their information is being scanned from their license until they begin receiving enticing marketing packages from tobacco companies.
"No doubt about it, this is a very slick system, but as a parent it worries me, and I think other Oklahoma parents, law enforcement and health care professionals should be worried too,” Bass said.
SB 1745 is supported by the Oklahoma Alliance on Health or Tobacco (OAHT) which includes pro-health groups such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma Hospital Association, Oklahoma Institute for Child advocacy, Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association, AARP and others.
Wes Glinsmann, spokesman for the American Heart Association praised Bass for his efforts to address the issue of driver license scanning.
"Certainly, we are very concerned about the tobacco industry’s increasingly aggressive efforts to hook Oklahoma’s young adults on their deadly products. But equally scary are the privacy implications,” Glinsmann said. “These driver license scanners can capture and store all of the personally identifiable information on the driver licenses, without the individual’s knowledge or consent. This issue should really raise a lot of red flags for anyone who is concerned about privacy and identity theft.”
Pat Marshall, Director of Governmental Relations for the American Cancer Society also spoke in favor of the legislation.
“The tobacco companies must continually find new customers because their old ones either quit smoking, or they die,” Marshall said. “That’s why they’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars right here in Oklahoma. Scanning young peoples’ driver licenses for marketing information is part of that effort.”
SB 1745 has already been approved by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary. The measure must now be considered by the full Senate Appropriations Committee.
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