In a move that sounds more like a headline in the Onion than an act of a federal health protection agency, the FDA has announced that it is going to protect the public from the dangers of "defective" cigarettes.
What is a defective cigarette, you may ask. Well, according to the FDA, a cigarette that causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, kidney cancer, or leukemia is not defective. Those are cigarettes which are working the way they are supposed to work!
A defective cigarette is one which causes health effects "beyond those normally associated with tobacco product use."
Further, the FDA is asking smokers who suffer such extra-ordinary health effects to report them to the agency. But the FDA doesn't want to hear from you if you simply suffer a "normal" health effect, like crippling obstructive lung disease, inability to breathe, metastatic cancer, or brain infarctions. In order to engage the FDA's interest, the health problem must be one that is beyond these "normal" product side effects.
What would be an example of such a severe problem that it warrants reporting to the FDA? According to the medical branch chief in the Office of Science at FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, such a severe problem would be something like if a cigarette "just smells or tastes wrong."
The Rest of the Story
What a great public health accomplishment it was to put cigarettes under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration. Although the FDA has so far done not a single thing to address cigarette safety problems such as heart disease, lung disease, and cancer, we can all breathe easier knowing that the FDA will plunge into action if a smoker somewhere reports that a cigarette doesn't smell or taste right.
While the FDA has given its official stamp of approval to the "normal" cigarettes that are killing more than 400,000 Americans each year and has taken no action to reduce the hazards of smoking, we can all be grateful that the agency has stepped in to protect the public from cigarettes that smell or taste wrong.
The FDA's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) assures us that for defective cigarettes, such as those which taste wrong, "issues will be addressed to ensure the protection of the public health."
However, for normal cigarettes that are merely toxic or deadly, the FDA
has taken no action to date to require these products to be safer.
Frankly, as I predicted prior to the enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the FDA's regulation of tobacco products is a national public health embarrassment.
Perhaps the FDA Center for Tobacco Products' slogan should be: "CTP: Protecting the Public from Cigarettes that Smell Wrong."