From the 1970's through 2002, the National Licensed Beverage Association (NBLA) was the largest trade association in the hospitality industry, and served as a tobacco industry front group. The tobacco industry funneled money to the NLBA for years to ensure that the NLBA would publicly oppose smokefree policies in workplaces. The tobacco industry succeeded in influencing the NLBA, and used them to promote its agenda and challenge smokefree air legislation.
Read Big Tobacco Buys a Round for the National Licensed Beverage Association for historical background on the tobacco companies' relationship with the NLBA.
In 2002, the NLBA and the National Association of Beverage Retailers merged to form the American Beverage Licensees. The American Beverage Licensees (ABL) remains actively opposed to smokefree legislation, stating "ABL opposes the implementation of smoking bans and support the rights of business owners." The ABL also remains connected to the tobacco industry, as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is listed as a 2007 Associate member.
The January/February 2007 edition of the "ABL Insider" newsletter provides an explanation of their membership:
"Affiliate Members: The ABL has 41 Affiliate members that can be found in 34 states and represent 348 of 435 Congressional districts across the country. The associations are generally governed by boards of directors and focus on issues at the state level. Some of those issues include smoking initiatives and other, often municipality-based, issues."
Associate members, which include R.J. Reynolds, are "comprised of leading trade associations and companies either in the alcohol beverage industry or with interest in the alcohol beverage industry."
Many of the ABL's statewide affiliates are actively working to oppose to local and state smokefree laws that cover bars. The March/April 2008 issue of the "ABL Insider" states that both the Pennsylvania Tavern Association and the Licensed Beverage Dealers of South Dakota will focus on defeating statewide smokefree efforts in 2008.