In a statement released to coincide with the passage of a bill which he helped to craft, along with Philip Morris and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Senator Ted Kennedy stated the following regarding the role of this legislation in protecting our nation's children from addiction:
"It is a life saving act for the millions of children who will be spared a lifetime of addiction and premature death. ... passage of H.R. 1256 is the most important action Congress can take to protect children from this deadly addiction. ... More than forty million people are hooked on this highly addictive product and many of them have been unable to quit despite repeated attempts. However, FDA action can play a major role in breaking the gruesome cycle that seduces millions of teenagers into a lifetime of addiction and premature death. ... What can FDA regulation accomplish? ... It can help smokers overcome their addiction. It can make tobacco products less toxic and less addictive for those who continue to use them. ... FDA must have the authority to reduce or remove hazardous and addictive ingredients from cigarettes, to the extent that it is scientifically feasible. The inherent risk in smoking should not be unnecessarily compounded."
The Rest of the Story
The rest of the story is that Senator Kennedy's statement reveals that he is full of crap.
As I have explained in detail previously, the legislation precludes the FDA from removing the nicotine from cigarettes. It does not protect kids or adults from addiction. It does not make it easier for adults to stop smoking. It does not make it more difficult for the tobacco companies to addict children. It does not give the FDA the authority to remove the chief addictive ingredient from cigarettes, as Kennedy says is mandatory. It does not eliminate the unnecessary compounding of the inherent risk in smoking by the addition of an addictive chemical.
While I could excuse a Senator for supporting legislation that precludes the FDA from eliminating nicotine, it is inexcusable - in my view - for a politician to support such a bill and then to have the political gall to get up in front of the American people and tell them that he has done something to protect future generations of children from addiction and to help millions of smokers to quit.
The bill does neither of these two things. In fact, it does the opposite. It institutionalizes nicotine. It ensures that nicotine will always remain in cigarettes. It protects nicotine from removal from tobacco products, ensuring that the tobacco companies will always maintain the power to addict new generations of customers (i.e., youths).
If there is anything that this bill does not do, it is protect future generations of children from nicotine addiction, as Senator Kennedy has told the American people it does.
It is very sad for me to see the depths to which politicians will apparently sink in order to obtain political gain. It is very clear that it is politics which is the primary concern - being able to say that you did something to confront Big Tobacco. But the actual substance of the policy doesn't matter. The actual effect on the ability of Big Tobacco to addict future generations is not important. All that matters is what the public thinks the bill will do. It's about political propaganda, not about a true concern for the protection of the public's health.
What a sad, sad chapter in federal public health policy making.