An article published in the current issue of Tobacco Control by Dr. Michael Givel, a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma, attacks the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for engaging in secret negotiations with Philip Morris, blasts the proposed FDA legislation by highlighting numerous flaws, and argues that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids was outsmarted by Philip Morris.
According to the article, Philip Morris enticed the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to the negotiating table by offering its support for the idea of FDA regulation of tobacco products. But what Philip Morris had in mind was "much weaker and alternative FDA regulation of tobacco. ... The beginning of this highly unusual effort by Philip Morris began in November 2001 when secret negotiations, of which many health advocates were unaware, were initiated between Philip Morris and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids."
The article outlines numerous major flaws in the proposed legislation:
1. "One significant problem in the reduced risks requirements for new tobacco products is that the bill makes it very difficult and expensive to introduce new tobacco products. In combination with allowing menthol as an additive these risk reduction provisions stabilise the current tobacco market favouring current brands including Philip Morris’s Marlboro."
2. "Another significant problem with the bill is that it requires a scientifically unproved claim that removing ingredients will makes cigarettes ‘‘safer.’’ There is currently little conclusive evidence on what ingredients are linked to particular morbidities and mortalities and at what level. In fact proponents have not shown any scientifically reviewed evidence at all as to how this bill would save any lives. Also, the requirement prohibiting nicotine reduction to zero could actually force smokers to smoke more and inhale more deeply.
3. "The bill also provides a significant litigation shield for the tobacco industry. This occurs because an FDA seal of approval on a product will be used as a defence against higher punitive damages in product liability and tort lawsuits."
4. "Another concern with the legislation is that the FDA, which is a consumer protection agency, would be placed in an untenable role of approving a product that also causes significant disease and death.
5. "The bill also gives the tobacco industry numerous avenues to veto and delay any proposed change to tobacco products through legislative veto, judicial review, and administrative hearings."
The article concludes: "It does appear master chess player Philip Morris is eight moves ahead of the health groups so far with this FDA bill."
The Rest of the Story
This outstanding article is a must-read for anyone interested in national tobacco policy. You're not going to get this story from the health groups, but it's the truth and it is essential that all tobacco control advocates understand the rest of the story before they make a decision about whether or not to support the proposed FDA tobacco legislation.
Dr. Givel makes many of the same arguments I have been making on this blog over the past two years. He explains why this legislation actually protects the profits of the nation's largest cigarette manufacturer at the expense of the public's health.
I completely agree that Philip Morris is light-years ahead of the health groups. They saw a weak spot in the health groups and they attacked it with great cunning. The entire approach is brilliant.
In light of this article and its revelations, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has a little explaining to do.