In two communications sent out yesterday to tobacco control advocates and other constituents, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids continued its pattern of deception by making more wildly deceptive statements.
In the first communication, which was sent out to advocates and issued as a press release, the Campaign stated that the FDA tobacco bill approved by the Senate HELP Committee yesterday requires tobacco companies to reduce or remove harmful ingredients from their products.
The Campaign stated that: "the legislation would grant the FDA authority to crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids; require that tobacco companies disclose the contents of tobacco products and reduce or remove harmful ingredients; stop tobacco companies from misleading the public about the health risks of their products; and require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products."
In the second communication, the Campaign implied that it supported the amendment, added to the bill yesterday, which adds clove back to the list of banned flavorings in cigarettes.
The Campaign wrote: "Public health groups had opposed an earlier change in the Chairman's Mark (now rescinded) that would have taken clove out of the list of immediately banned flavors."
In the press release, the Campaign also stated that the public has expressed overwhelming support for the proposed FDA legislation, claiming that: "According to a recent national poll, 70 percent of voters support Congress passing the legislation and 72 percent believe passage of the legislation would be an important accomplishment for Congress."
The Rest of the Story
The rest of the story is that the FDA legislation would not require that tobacco companies reduce or remove the harmful ingredients from their products. What it would do is give the FDA the authority to require tobacco companies to reduce or remove certain harmful ingredients from their products. There is a huge difference between the two, and it is therefore deceptive to imply that the bill itself requires that tobacco companies reduce or remove the harmful ingredients from their products.
The legislation merely gives the FDA the ability to require the reduction or removal of particular harmful ingredients. The FDA could not require the reduction or removal of all harmful ingredients (which is implied by the statement), nor does the bill require that the FDA take any particular action at all. In fact, the bill gives the tobacco companies the ability to block any required removal of an ingredient merely by getting a majority of Congressmembers to veto the regulation.
The rest of the story is also that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids opposed, rather than supported, the decision to add clove back to the list of banned flavorings in cigarettes.
While it is true that the health groups initially were not supportive of the idea of taking clove off the list of banned flavorings, once Senator Kennedy made this change, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids opposed the amendment, passed yesterday, which rescinded this change in the bill, which was apparently done as a favor to Philip Morris, which recently began marketing clove cigarettes in Indonesia.
In a communication to tobacco control advocates which emphasized its opposition to the clove amendment, the Campaign expressed concern that the inclusion of clove might violate trade agreements. As I noted yesterday, this is a completely bogus argument. If that were true, then it would violate trade treaties for the FDA to require any changes in cigarette ingredients, since imported cigarettes wouldn't meet such requirements.
The third part of the rest of the story is that the national poll referred to by the Campaign did not assess respondents' opinions about the actual FDA legislation being considered by Congress. Instead, the poll simply asked people to give their opinions about the general idea of giving the FDA the authority to regulate cigarettes. The question was simply: "Would you favor or oppose the U.S. Congress passing a bill that would give the Food and Drug Administration, known as the FDA, the authority to regulate tobacco products, including restrictions on sales and marketing to children?"
This question does not ask about the specific legislation in question. It does not, for example, ask respondents whether they would support a bill that purports to give the FDA the authority to regulate cigarettes, but ties the Agency's hands by precluding it from eliminating any class of tobacco products, from removing the nicotine, from raising the legal age of purchase of cigarettes, from regulating the places where cigarettes are sold, and from making cigarettes available on a prescription-basis.
I have already commented on why I feel the poll taken by the Campaign, or at least the way the results were reported, represents junk science. Clearly, it is deceptive to suggest that the public has been polled about its opinions regarding S.625. That is not the case. The public has been polled about the general idea of giving the FDA regulatory authority over cigarettes, but not about the specific bill in question.
In fact, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has refused to even inform the public about the details regarding the legislation. And for good reason: the more that people know, the more likely they are to realize that the bill contains unprecedented special protections for Big Tobacco.
The fact that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is unable to be truthful about the FDA legislation should be a big clue to the public that the FDA legislation is truly weak. If the legislation were as meaningful as the Campaign makes it out to be, then it wouldn't be necessary to widely deceive its constituents and the public - repeatedly - about the legislation. Instead, the Campaign could simply tell the truth.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids does not seem capable of simply telling the truth. This may simply be a result of the organization's fear that if the truth gets out there, people may no longer support the bill. But whatever the reason, it is unethical.
Ironically, a bill which is being touted as necessary to force tobacco companies to tell the truth is being supported by the most deceptive tactics I have ever experienced in my tobacco control career.