Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More Junk Science from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to Promote FDA Tobacco Legislation

Last Friday, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids released the results of yet another poll which purportedly shows that the public supports the FDA tobacco legislation that is currently before Congress. The Campaign wrote: "A new national poll released today finds that voters strongly support legislation to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products and also believe it would be an important accomplishment for Congress. The poll finds that 70 percent of voters support Congress passing the legislation and 73 percent believe passage of the legislation would be an important accomplishment."

The Campaign writes that: "Support for FDA regulation of tobacco climbs even higher (81 percent) when voters hear specific provisions of the bill."

The provisions that respondents were informed about include:
  • "restricting tobacco sales to children by requiring ID checks for younger buyers and fining retailers who sell tobacco to minors";
  • "restricting tobacco marketing aimed at children such as limiting advertising in magazines with a large percentage of readers under age 18";
  • "requiring tobacco companies to take measures, when scientifically possible, to make cigarettes less harmful";
  • "preventing tobacco companies from making claims that some products are less harmful than others unless the FDA determines those claims are true"; and
  • "requiring the reduction or removal of harmful ingredients, including nicotine, from tobacco products".
The Rest of the Story

This is another example of complete junk science from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to promote the now-doomed FDA tobacco legislation.

While these results demonstrate that there is general support for the idea of the FDA regulating tobacco products, this poll in no way demonstrates that the public supports the actual legislation that has been negotiated by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Philip Morris.

The Campaign boasts that support for the bill rises dramatically when respondents are told about the specific provisions of the bill. However, the Campaign failed to ask any questions in which they assessed respondents' opinion of the bill with regards to the following specific provisions:
  • exempting menthol from the list of banned flavorings that can be added to cigarettes;
  • precluding the FDA from increasing the legal age of purchase for cigarettes;
  • precluding the FDA from regulating the sale of tobacco products at any particular type of retail outlets;
  • allowing Congress to overturn any major FDA regulations with a simple majority vote and a streamlined legislative process;
  • disallowing the FDA to require a prescription-only access system for cigarettes;
  • precluding the FDA from eliminating nicotine in cigarettes; and
  • allowing the tobacco industry to sit on the expert advisory panel to the FDA.
Had they asked those questions, the Campaign would certainly have obtained a very different picture regarding the public's support for this particular legislation.

In addition, the Campaign failed to assess the public's support of the bill after being informed that the legislation is the result of a negotiation with Philip Morris and that it contains numerous loopholes inserted to appease Philip Morris and protect the financial interests of the leading tobacco company.

If the Campaign were truly interested in understanding the public's opinion of this legislation, it would have asked the all-important question:

Would you favor or oppose the U.S. Congress passing a bill that would give the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products, if you knew that Philip Morris - the nation's leading tobacco company - were in strong support of the legislation?

I doubt that the Campaign would be able to muster up even 20% support for the legislation if it were actually telling the public the truth.

This is truly junk science because it is hiding the truth from people and assessing their opinion on a hypothetical issue, but without actually measuring opinion on the actual issue at hand - the specific legislation itself.

In fact, I hesitate to call this "junk science" because it may give "junk science" a worse name than it deserves. This isn't junk science. This really isn't science at all.

It is little more than political propaganda masquerading as science.

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