Regulation without consideration

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Those who follow our work are well aware that ACSH experts have been dreading the imminent approval of a bill in the Senate which would establish FDA regulation of tobacco products. The bill is a result of an unfortunate effort by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids conspiring with Phillip Morris/Altria to "regulate" tobacco.

"The common misconception is that if cigarettes are bad, it must mean that regulation is good," says ACSH's Jeff Stier, who watched as the Senate began the debate yesterday. Stier goes on to mention the suspicious haste with which the Altria Group (parent company of Philip Morris) has cooperated to draft and pass the bill: "Altria s support will be a great fundraising tool and will guarantee some special treatment for cigarettes if it passes."

One such subtle provision is the severe limitation put on potential cessation products that might compete for tobacco consumers. "The biggest hit here will be the difficulty of marketing harm-reduction products," notes ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, "especially smokeless tobacco or snus, which has helped to reduce smoking in Sweden." This bill also fosters the insidious pretense that a regulated product is a safe product, perhaps encouraging the same false sense of security that previous anti-smoking efforts have. "This bill is as bad as the one passed in the 1960s requiring warning labels on cigarettes, which was the biggest gift to cigarette companies in the past century in that it granted them immunity from lawsuits," says Dr. Whelan.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross cites the problem common to tobacco legislation in general: "The people who are endorsing it do not want the actual data on smoking, they just want to say they've addressed it." Dr. Ross predicts an outcome similar to that of previous anti-smoking efforts: "It's going to set public health back on tobacco issues for a decade."