In the 1970s, the tobacco industry perpetuated the myth that some brands of cigarettes were safer than others. Perhaps because of differences in nicotine or tar delivery. Or perhaps because of differences in additives. But the public health community knew that was hogwash and didn't buy it. In fact, eventually the federal government filed a lawsuit against the tobacco companies, arguing that their public statements insinuating that some cigarette brands are safer amount to conspiracy to commit fraud. The tobacco companies found themselves guilty of racketeering and will now have to issue a corrective statement indicating that even major differences in cigarette ingredients do not render them significantly different in terms of the overall public health risk that they pose.
In 2014, the tobacco companies have changed their behavior and have ceased and desisted from arguing that even major differences between cigarette brands render them different in terms of overall public health risk. In fact, Philip Morris has explicitly stated the following: "As of today ... there is no cigarette on the market that public
health organizations endorse as offering 'reduced risk.' If smokers are
concerned about the risks of cigarette smoking, the best thing to do is
However, in February 2014, there is one entity that continues to reiterate the lies of the 1970s ...
... the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Just last week, the FDA indicated that even very small differences in cigarette brands could pose major issues of public health significance, prompting the agency to disapprove one substantial equivalence application and to hold onto thousands more for over a year.
In taking this position, the FDA is virtually on its own. Most scientists and public health practitioners disavowed such crap decades ago, when it was first spewn forth by the old Big Tobacco companies. But now, there are only two entities that are still claiming this nonsense: (1) the FDA; and (2) Stan Glantz (see his public comment to the FDA).
The Rest of the Story
The rest of the story is that regulatory power has corrupted the science at the FDA. The FDA has been infected with the virus that causes an agency to regulate for regulation's sake. The agency has created a huge bureaucracy which is accomplishing absolutely nothing to protect the public's health. It is a profound waste of time and resources. The FDA would be better off using the money being spent on substantial equivalence applications on an aggressive, anti-smoking television campaign that would actually do something to protect the public's health.
Moreover, the FDA's actions are sending the wrong message to the public. First, the FDA is indicating to the public that there is such a thing as a safer cigarette. The FDA is insinuating that even small changes in cigarette design can result in drastic differences in the public health safety of cigarettes.
Second, the FDA is sending the message that it is somehow protecting the safety of the nation's cigarette supply. We've kept those dangerous Indian cigarettes off the market so that consumers can enjoy the well-regulated, much safer, made-in-America cigarettes. This is how the FDA is protecting our nations' health!
The FDA is undermining decades of public health efforts to underscore the ubiquitous danger of cigarette smoking and the lack of value of even major design changes, such as filters and lower yields. By doing so, the agency is negating any positive effects of its own anti-smoking media campaign.
In 2014, not even the tobacco companies would dare to suggest that minor changes in cigarette design could lead to substantial improvements in the public health safety of these products. And any company that did would be charged immediately into the courtroom. But there is one entity that is still spewing this crap to the public. Shockingly, it's our own government, and its leading supposed tobacco control agency.