Despite a vote by its members indicating support for the removal of all cigarette flavorings, the American Medical Association (AMA) leadership has refused to accept the opinions of its members and has instead opposed the removal of the menthol exemption from the FDA tobacco legislation.
On June 17, the American Medical Association voted to adopt the following policy regarding the removal of cigarette flavorings:
"In recent years tobacco products have been developed in a variety of flavors including chocolate, vanilla, mint and fruit. Surveys have shown that children are more likely to choose flavored tobacco products. Because these products appear to be specifically marketed toward children, today the AMA spoke out in support of state legislation that would prohibit the sale or distribution of flavored tobacco products."
According to an AMA press release supporting the removal of all cigarette flavorings: "Research shows that the earlier a person begins smoking the more likely he or she will become addicted to tobacco products and will continue to smoke throughout his or her lifetime," said AMA Board Member William Dolan, M.D. "We all know the dangers of smoking and by prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products targeted toward children, we may be able to keep the younger generation tobacco free."
Despite passage of this resolution, the AMA leadership continues to oppose the removal of the menthol exemption, and is thus supporting the continued use of menthol flavorings in cigarettes, which is at odds with the policy vote of the AMA members. According to an Associated Press article, AMA president Dr. Ron Davis said he was continuing to support the menthol exemption despite the sentiment and vote of AMA members because removing the exemption "might derail the legislation."
The Rest of the Story
So you mean to tell me that despite the vote of the AMA members, the AMA leadership is supporting the continued sale of menthol cigarettes and the continuing addiction of our nation's youth because it admits that it wants to protect Philip Morris profits from menthol sales and thus retain its political alliance with Philip Morris in support of the FDA legislation?
The rest of the story is that this may be one of the saddest chapters in the history of the AMA's support of the tobacco industry.
What surprises me, however, is that I thought this history had come to an end. Sure, the AMA has a long relationship with the tobacco industry and has been one of the strongest financial supporters of pro-tobacco legislators. But I thought that times had changed and that the chief organization representing America's physicians would relinquish its long-time role in protecting tobacco industry interests.
Well, I guess times haven't really changed after all. The AMA continues to ally itself with the tobacco industry, and in this case, to actively try to block efforts to protect the public's health by improving the FDA legislation in order to protect the financial interests of the leading cigarette company, whose Marlboro Menthol product is the 2nd leading menthol brand on the market.
My only regret is that I quit the AMA years ago. I would have loved to send in my AMA resignation in response to this gaffe.