Monday, December 12, 2005

Anti-Smoking Groups Fail to Respond to Double Challenge; Show that they are Talking Out of Both Sides of their Mouths

So far, I have failed to see any evidence that either the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids or Ignite have responded to my double challenge, challenging them to call for strengthening of the proposed FDA tobacco legislation so that it does not provide unprecedented special protections for the tobacco industry, something which both groups claim is the very reason why legislation is needed in the first place.

Let me make it very clear that I do not support the idea of FDA regulation of tobacco products right now. I do not believe that such regulation would be in the best interests of the public's health, especially given the dreadful record of the FDA in regulating non-tobacco products and the current political environment that is undermining the Agency's regulatory ability. I do not believe that federal regulation is the answer to all of our public health problems, and it is certainly not, at the present time, the solution to the tobacco problem.

Nevertheless, even if one were to accept the fact that the absence of federal regulation of tobacco products is a national tragedy, as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Ignite seem to suggest, and that we must end the special protection for the tobacco industry by regulating tobacco products in the same way as food and drugs, then I think one would have to agree that the FDA legislation being supported by these groups fails to do that.

In contrast, it provides even more special protections for the tobacco industry, through a series of truck-size loopholes that, among other things, provide immunity for the industry against most litigation, allow the industry to market reduced exposure products without any legal repercussions (even if their claims which imply reduced health risk are false), and give Congress nearly unprecedented oversight and institutionalized veto power over the actions of the FDA to regulate tobacco products.

What is most troubling to me is not whether or not groups are supporting the idea of FDA legislation, which is a strategic judgment, but whether or not groups are consistent in their public propaganda. And by failing to call for removal of these loopholes which provide special protections for the tobacco industry, I think both the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Ignite are being inconsistent and hypocritical in their actions.

What could possibly be lost by calling for a strengthening of this legislation? One thing only, and that is Philip Morris' support for the legislation. Why? Because the legislation, with the loopholes it currently contains, provides the special protection that Philip Morris deems it needs in order to conduct business as usual.

So essentially what we have is a situation where the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Ignite are lobbying to provide Philip Morris with the precise special protections that it most desires, while at the same time, decrying the influence of the tobacco companies and their campaign contributions on federal policy makers providing special protections for the tobacco industry.

These groups are talking out of both sides of their mouths. This is hypocrisy at its worst.

And the shame of it all is that it undermines everything else that these groups are saying. Because if they demonstrate that they don't really mean what they say in the first place, then what reason do we have to believe anything that they say?

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