In testimony Wednesday before the Health Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids told Congress that there is "particularly strong" public support for the "specific provisions" of the proposed FDA legislation.
The legislation, which would grant very limited authority to the FDA to regulate tobacco products, has already been approved by a Senate Committee.
According to its testimony: "The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has measured voter support for FDA regulation of tobacco products and, not surprisingly, it has broad support across the country from 70 percent of voters in a national poll. State surveys from around the country have consistently found similar high levels of support, crossing party and ideological lines. It even has majority support among smokers. Voter support is particularly strong for the specific provisions of FDA regulation. When asked whether tobacco companies should be required to take measures to make cigarettes less harmful; whether tobacco companies should be prevented from making claims that some products are less harmful than others unless FDA determines those claims are true; or whether FDA should restrict tobacco marketing aimed at children, voter support for each of these elements exceeds 75 percent. It is truly time for Congress to act."
The Rest of the Story
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' testimony is terribly misleading. It implies that voter support for the key specific provisions of the FDA legislation has been measured and that voters overwhelmingly support these provisions. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While the Campaign mentions support for three of the specific provisions -- requiring tobacco companies to remove or eliminate certain tobacco smoke constituents, preventing companies from making deceptive health claims, and restricting tobacco marketing aimed at kids -- the Campaign fails to mention whether or not the public supports the more important and certainly more controversial provisions of the legislation: those provisions which were inserted to protect the financial interests of Philip Morris.
So, for example, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' polls did not assess the degree of public support for the provision in the legislation which precludes the FDA from raising the age of purchase of cigarettes in order to deter youth smoking.
The Campaign also failed to assess the degree of public support for the provision which precludes the FDA from eliminating nicotine entirely from cigarettes.
The Campaign similarly failed to assess the degree of public support for the Congressional veto provision of the legislation, which allows Congress to overturn any regulation the tobacco industry doesn't like with a simple majority vote.
Furthermore, the Campaign failed to assess the degree of public support for the provision which prohibits the FDA from regulating the sale of tobacco products at particular types of retail outlets. How many people out there actually would support limiting the ability of the FDA to eliminate the sale of cigarettes at youth or community centers? How many people feel that the FDA should not be able to keep cigarettes out of the hands of kids by restricting the types of outlets where cigarettes can be sold?
Moreover, the Campaign failed to assess the degree of public support for the provision which precludes the FDA from making cigarettes available on a prescription-only basis.
In addition, the Campaign failed to assess the degree of public support for the provision which exempts menthol from the list of flavorings that can be added to cigarettes to try to entice potential customers. What exactly does the public think about banning strawberry and chocolate -- which are not even used -- but allowing the continued use of menthol, which contributes to the addiction of millions of users?
In light of these blatant omissions from their public opinion polls, just how accurate is it for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to testify that "Voter support is particularly strong for the specific provisions of FDA regulation"?
I'll tell you - it's not very accurate at all. In fact, it is inappropriately deceptive. It is manipulative. It is dishonest.
How ironic that what the Campaign is testifying in favor of is a bill intended to prevent the tobacco companies from making misleading public statements.
The public opinion polls conducted by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are junk science at its worst. These polls are not intended to actually measure public support for the specific legislation at hand. Instead, they are simply part of a lobbying campaign to generate support for the legislation by falsely showing that public support for the specific legislation is high. In fact, all the polls demonstrate is that support for the general idea of FDA regulation of tobacco products is high. But they do not demonstrate that the public actually agrees with the specific provisions of this bill, especially the myriad provisions which were inserted specifically by Philip Morris (or at least to appease Philip Morris), which was the key negotiator at the table where the deal was struck that led to this legislation.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has taken not one, but two pages out of the tobacco industry playbook. First, deceiving the public by hiding a large part of the truth. Second, relying upon junk science - using supposedly scientific methods to have the appearance of supporting a proposition that is actually not supported.
To be honest, I've seen a lot more deception out of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids these days than I have from the tobacco companies. Perhaps we should be considering legislation to require pre-approval of claims made by the Campaign so that it can be determined that these claims are accurate and not misleading.