Big tobacco step: FDA claiming the reigns
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in control of manufacturing and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products. This is big. This will have more impact than the 1971 ban against tobacco advertising on radio and t...
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in control of manufacturing and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
This is big.
This will have more impact than the 1971 ban against tobacco advertising on radio and television. It will eclipse the industry's $206 billion lawsuit settlement with the states in 1998.
The surgeon general declared tobacco a health hazard in 1964. It is unconscionable that for 45 years, the substance considered the leading cause of preventable death has been virtually the last unregulated consumable U.S. product.
President Obama, who has struggled with his own nicotine addiction, has signed off on legislation that outlaws the use of the terms "light" and "low tar;" bans the use of fruit and candy flavorings to make tobacco products more palatable to children; strengthens warning labels; and requires FDA approval for new products. Advertising and store displays will be restricted to stark black-and-white text.
The Congressional Budget Office predicts the new law will decrease youth smoking incrementally by 11 percent and adult smoking by 2 percent, independent of reductions in use that result from higher excise taxes and public smoking restrictions.
But the bigger impact is the disclosure and regulation of cigarettes estimated 60 carcinogens and 4,000 toxins. The FDA has been given the ability to make the products less deadly for current users.
Obama's signature culminates the decade-long legislative battle on Capitol Hill. The tobacco companies have spent $308 million to defeat the bill.
Attempting to save the lives of some of the more than 400,000 people killed annually by tobacco-related health problems is the ultimate expression of the bill's mission.
David Kessler, FDA commissioner from 1990 to 1997, tried to claim the power to control the industry. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that only Congress could give the agency regulatory authority. When he was president, George W. Bush threatened to veto the legislation if it ever reached his desk.
It's ironic that one of the bill's biggest proponents was Philip Morris. Other tobacco makers say the legislation allows that company to cement its position as the industry leader because of the advertising restrictions. But all of the tobacco companies have proven resilient under ever-growing restrictions because their customers are physically and psychologically addicted to the products.
The bill creates an FDA tobacco control center, funded with new fees paid by the companies. It's an inadequate argument by legislators from tobacco-growing states and industry lobbyists that the FDA is too busy to properly regulate the industry.
Lorillard, the No. 2 cigarette manufacturer, issued this statement: "Congress should not be burdening the FDA with a new responsibility over a multibillion-dollar industry when it is failing presently to preserve its core mission."