Friday, June 19, 2009

Newspaper Columns Call FDA Legislation What It Really Is: A Scam

Three more newspaper columns have exposed that the FDA tobacco legislation is actually a public scam in which politicians and health groups pat themselves on the back for taking on Big Tobacco when in reality, they have granted unprecedented special protections to the industry and failed to take the meaningful action that would actually make a dent in cigarette smoking rates.

While it is reassuring to see that the public is finally being made aware of the truth behind this legislation, it is unfortunate that this education comes after the legislation has already been enacted and it is too late for Congress and the health groups to re-think the damage they have done. But that's what happens when the leading organization (the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids) behind the bill's idea of discussion and inclusion is holding a conference call to allow itself to spread the propaganda under the guise of "answering questions" about the bill.

1. Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial

An editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer stated that the FDA legislation was "a pact with the devil." It opined that the institutionalization of nicotine into cigarettes was a huge victory for Big Tobacco and that the FDA seal of approval will give the companies a public relations bonanza, allowing them to use attractive slogans such as "I'd walk a mile for an FDA-approved Camel."

The editorial states: "As Congress and President Obama move closer toward bringing tobacco products under federal oversight for the first time, they have to wonder if they're also making a pact with the devil. ... By agreeing to support federal regulation, tobacco giant Philip Morris U.S.A. assured that addictive nicotine would never be banned - a huge victory. Beyond that, however, the industry stands to gain an implicit stamp of approval by marketing its products under the watchful gaze of the FDA, whose usual mission is to assure that food and medicines are "safe and effective." It's not too far-fetched to imagine the ad campaigns: I'd walk a mile for an FDA-approved Camel."

2. Congress Examiner Column

A column by Igor Derysh in the Congress Examiner called the FDA legislation a "cheap political ploy" that allows politicians to tell the American public that they did something about the problem when they actually did nothing to actually make a difference in smoking, other than perhaps get rid of the banana-flavored cigarettes that are such a pervasive problem. Noting that the bill gets rid of all the flavorings that are not used but exempts the one flavoring (menthol) that is actually used to addict thousands of young people, Derysh concludes: "Protecting the public, my ass."

Derysh writes: "Earning cheap political points by going after easy targets has always been high on Congress' agenda. Respecting the American public has not. And so, when the recent tobacco regulation bill passed overwhelmingly in Congress it was both a cheap political ploy and another example of Congress disregarding the possible intelligence of the American people. The bill itself transferred regulation of the tobacco industry to the Food and Drug Administration (a government agency that is run by the same people that it regulates), strengthens warning labels, demands that tobacco companies disclose their ingredients, and bans flavored cigarettes. All flavored cigarettes except for menthol cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes of course have a considerably higher amount of harmful chemicals than others do and are targeted towards the black community just like guns. Protecting the public, my ass."

"The passage of the Tobacco Control Act is just another attack on the intelligence of the American individual. We do not need to be told that cigarettes are bad for you, we are bombarded with that message all day long. What we need is a Congress that accomplishes something worthwhile or just stays the hell home instead of celebrating cheap victories in which they banned banana flavored cigarettes."

3. Op-Ed in New York Post

George Will's column in the New York Post similarly opines that the FDA legislation is just another example of politicians patting themselves on the back when they have actually strengthened the position of Philip Morris, rather than taken meaningful action to protect the public's health.

Will writes: "Politicians have extraordinary shoulder joints that enable them to pat themselves on the back. Last week the president, a master of that calisthenic, performed it in the Rose Garden. His subject was the bill by which Congress authorized the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco. The president called this "a bill that truly defines change in Washington" and "changes the way Washington works and who Washington works for." Our leaders are often wrong but rarely so precisely wrong." ... the bill is a crystalline example of Washington business as usual -- the protection of the strong. The bill was supported by America's biggest tobacco company ... Although commercial speech doesn't receive full First Amendment protection, Congress shouldn't be allowed to effectively prohibit truthful communication about a legal product. Philip Morris, however, can live -- indeed, can flourish -- with the new restrictions on the marketing measures by which less powerful companies might threaten its dominance. ... Government policy regarding tobacco, as regarding so much else, is contradictory and unlovely. ... Ironies abound. The February expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program is supposed to be financed by higher tobacco taxes, so this health care depends on an ample, renewable supply of smokers. State governments, increasingly addicted to tobacco-tax revenues, face delicate price calculations: They want to raise their regressive tobacco taxes (smokers are disproportionately low income and poorly educated) to just below where smokers are driven to quit. Governments can't loot tobacco companies that don't flourish."

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