Charlie Rose, 73; former N.C. congressman dubbed ‘Mr. Tobacco’
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NEW YORK — Charlie Rose, a former US representative from rural North Carolina who fought to protect the tobacco industry and its farmers when political and regulatory pressure on the industry were on the rise and smoking in steady decline, died Monday in Albertville, Ala. He was 73.
The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Stacye Hefner.
Mr. Rose, a Democrat some called Mr. Tobacco, was first elected to the House in 1973. His southeastern North Carolina district was covered with tobacco farms, but the crop’s economic and geographic footprint shrank over the next two decades of his tenure.
Mr. Rose (no relation to the television interviewer of the same name) eased the transition and successfully fought to preserve government price supports for tobacco even as the government was warning of its potentially lethal health effects.
“There’s no way you could represent that district and not be in support of tobacco farmers,’’ said Merle Black, professor of politics at Emory University.
In the 1990s, the Clinton administration considered a significant increase in the federal tobacco tax to help pay for the ambitious health care overhaul proposed by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Rose, the chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Peanuts and Tobacco, led the opposition.
‘‘In the past, the Reagan and Bush administrations were pretty reasonable about taxing tobacco,’’ Mr. Rose said in 1995. ‘‘But I think all of us who represent tobacco states knew that the growing concern about smoking and health was going to someday lead to this type of attitude and reaction in the White House. This talk of $2 a pack is scaring us to death, and that’s putting it mildly.’’
The health care plan did not pass, and the federal tobacco tax has yet to reach $2 per pack — it is now $1.01 — but Mr. Rose was correct that change was coming. He retired from Congress in 1996, two years after Republicans took control.