Today, as the Senate debates proposed FDA tobacco legislation, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed I wrote which criticizes that legislation and reveals the truth behind the bill.
First, the piece reveals that the legislation being touted by anti-smoking groups as being the best thing since sliced bread is actually the result of a deal struck between the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Philip Morris.
Second, the piece discloses the little-known fact that the bill is a result of a negotiation process in which the health groups compromised the protection of the public's health in order to appease the financial interests of Philip Morris and keep the nation's largest cigarette company at the negotiating table.
The piece exposes some of the numerous loopholes in the legislation, which severely limit the FDA's ability to regulate cigarettes and which, in some cases, actually harm the public's health.
For example, the bill allows the FDA to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes but not to eliminate the nicotine. Because of the phenomenon of compensation, this would result in deeper inhalation and higher cigarette consumption and thus worse health effects.
The bill also makes it impossible for new, truly safer products (such as electronic cigarettes) to enter the market while institutionalizing and protecting the existing, high-risk alternatives.
Also, quite tellingly, the bill bans all cigarette flavorings -- including cherry, chocolate, banana, and strawberry -- but exempts menthol, the one flavoring which is actually being used to entice and addict young smokers.
The piece closes: "During the previous administration, the FDA was accused of making decisions based on politics, not health. If the Senate passes the FDA tobacco legislation, it will be institutionalizing, rather than ending, the triumph of politics over science in federal policy making. This is not the way to restore science to its rightful place."
While the legislation is a done "deal" and will almost certainly pass the Senate and be enacted into law, I hope this op-ed column educates the public about the truth behind the bill so that while the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is successful in pulling the wool over the eyes of politicians, it will not be successful in pulling the wool over the eyes of the public.