One of the major criticisms I have leveled against the proposed legislation is that it would give cigarettes an FDA seal of approval, thus undermining the public's appreciation of the hazards of smoking and providing the tobacco companies with a golden marketing opportunity. The companies could start boasting that their products are officially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that they comply with all federal regulations and requirements regarding the safety of tobacco products.
Can you imagine statements on cigarette packages, advertisements, and web sites which state: "Our products are strictly regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has approved this product for sale in the U.S. It meets all regulatory safety standards promulgated by the FDA."
To be sure, this would be a public relations bonanza for the industry. I would love to be on the public relations staff of a cigarette company after the law is enacted. Can you imagine the fun the public relations departments of the tobacco companies will have?
This post is a contest that will provide a chance for readers to compete in developing the most effective public relations statements for tobacco companies if the FDA tobacco legislation is enacted. Since all the major tobacco companies regularly read this blog, your ideas will be transmitted directly to the companies for their consideration. Based on reader feedback, I will select the top three winning entries. Submit your entries in the comments section below.
The Rest of the Story
The bill currently before Congress was a brilliant stroke of genius by Philip Morris, which realized the tremendous public relations benefits that would be provided by the company's being able to say that its products are strictly regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and that the company complies with the strictest standards set by federal regulations.
Unfortunately, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids fell for this ploy hook, line, and sinker. The regulatory authority granted to the FDA is so severely limited that it will be essentially helpless to carry out its charge of regulating the safety of tobacco products. Each of the possible things that the FDA could do that would truly make a dent in smoking rates or in encouraging the development of a truly safer product are specifically precluded by loopholes in the legislation, which were agreed upon by the Campaign in order to appease the financial interests of Philip Morris.
Worst of all, the legislation will undermine four decades of effort to help the public appreciate the severe hazards associated with smoking and at the same time, will give the tobacco companies the opportunity to greatly increase their public image. The only question that remains is what statements they will make to achieve that purpose. I don't know, but I would love to be in the position of trying to come up with them.