The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association yesterday called the FDA tobacco law's requirement for large, graphic warning labels on cigarette packages a "critical provision" of the law.
The Rest of the Story
When the FDA tobacco law was debated in Senate committee in July 2007 (a debate that essentially shaped the law that eventually passed), the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association opposed the amendment that added these large, graphic warning labels.
Moreover, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids encouraged its constituents to lobby Congress in opposition to the large, graphic warning labels.
The Campaign went so far as to inform its constituents that the large, graphic warning labels did not strengthen the bill.
Embarrassingly, the amendment which added the requirement for large, graphic warning labels passed despite the objection of these supposed health groups.
Today, however, the large graphic warning labels are all of a sudden a critical component of the law.
The rest of the story, in other words, is that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the other health groups are acknowledging that they actively opposed a critical provision of the FDA tobacco legislation.
What this means is that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association are the best friends that Philip Morris could ask for. They did everything they could to protect Philip Morris profits at the expense of the public's health.
More importantly, what it means is that these organizations are full of baloney when they talk about their desire to end special protections for Big Tobacco. What they did was support the most special protections for Big Tobacco imaginable. These groups opposed the very measures that could actually do something to put a dent in smoking. And they supported only those measures that would do nothing to curtail smoking, but would allow the companies to appear to the public as if they are complying with stringent safety regulations because they are concerned about the health of their customers.
Despite all my criticism of these groups over their initial endorsement of the FDA tobacco legislation, they actually had a chance to redeem themselves by supporting these amendments to strengthen the legislation and eliminate some of the glaring loopholes that were inserted specifically for Philip Morris.
But the groups - all of them - failed miserably. It is a supreme disappointment to find out that the goal of being able to stick a feather in the cap was more important than actually doing something meaningful to protect the public's health.
I'm all for regulation of public health hazards. But if you're going to let Philip Morris write those regulations, then count me out.
Not so for the health groups. We now know that they were perfectly willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Philip Morris and let the nation's leading cigarette company dictate the terms under which the FDA is forced to approve cigarettes.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association sold out the public's health to protect tobacco industry profits. What a sad chapter in tobacco control and public health history.
Now that the legislation has been enacted, these groups are changing their tune. Now the graphic warning labels are a critical component of the law and these groups are taking credit for a provision that they actively opposed.
These groups are full of crap and they have deteriorated to the point where they are little more than political propaganda machines that are incapable of standing up for public health principles and for the protection of the people. Instead, they are standing up for Philip Morris and for whatever political dealing they deem necessary to be able to tell themselves that they got something passed.
It may look good for fundraising, but it doesn't amount to a hill of beans when it comes to protecting the public's health.