Monday, March 10, 2008

American Lung Association Deceives Constituents in Promoting FDA Tobacco Legislation

In an effort to promote the proposed FDA tobacco legislation, the American Lung Association (ALA) is telling its constituents and the rest of the public that the bills presently before Congress would ban all flavored cigarettes. In addition, the ALA is telling the public that the legislation would require changes in tobacco products to reduce their harm, such as reduction of harmful smoke components.

According to the ALA: "The FDA bill would ban flavored cigarettes and crack down on other marketing to our kids."

In addition: "Effective FDA authority over tobacco products will protect public health, improve consumer awareness and save lives. It will ... Require changes in tobacco products to reduce harm such as reduction of harmful components when technologically feasible."

The Rest of the Story

There are just 2 problems with the American Lung Association's statements.

First, the FDA bill does not ban all cigarette flavorings. It only bans the ones which are rarely used, such as: chocolate, cherry, banana, and strawberry. But it explicitly exempts menthol, which is overwhelmingly the chief flavoring used in United States cigarettes.

According to the most recent Federal Trade Commission cigarette report, menthol cigarettes make up 27% of the domestic cigarette market. Thus, contrary to the ALA's assertion that flavored cigarettes will be banned, the legislation will allow the sale of menthol flavored cigarettes - 27% of the current market - to continue. This is particularly concerning for the African-American community, as menthol cigarette use is high among this group and menthol is used to recruit young African-American smokers.

Second, the FDA bill does not require changes which will reduce the harm from cigarettes. In fact, it merely allows, but does not require, that FDA promulgate standards which call for the reduction or elimination of certain cigarette smoke constituents, ingredients, or additives.

Thus, the FDA could take no action at all. Moreover, the ALA has not produced any evidence whatsoever that a "safety standard" for cigarettes could produce a safer cigarette. Any such standards promulgated by the FDA will be a pure guess. But consumers will assume that cigarettes have been made safer.

In other words, the fraud that is purportedly being committed by cigarette companies in implying that certain cigarette brands are safer will now be transferred over to the federal government. And it will apply not just to specific types of cigarettes, but to all cigarettes.

Regardless of my individual opposition to the FDA legislation, I find it unethical for the American Lung Association to mislead its constituents and the public by being dishonest and deceiving them about what the legislation does and does not require.

My true feeling is that this legislation is so weak and contains so many compromises to appease Philip Morris that organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Lung Association, and the American Medical Association cannot afford to tell the truth about it. Doing so would expose it for the Philip Morris protection scam that it really is.

So it's no surprise that the American Lung Association has joined the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Cancer Society in being dishonest and deceptive about the FDA legislation. This appears to be their only choice if they don't want the public's perception of the bill as one that protects public health to come crumbling to the ground. But it still doesn't make it right to deceive the public.

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