Sunday, July 12, 2009

Even With Warning Labels, Propaganda About FDA Legislation Has Been Over-Hyped

An article published Saturday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other health groups have been over-hyping the FDA tobacco legislation and exposes that even with the warning label provisions, claims about the effects of the legislation are largely propaganda, devoid of substance.

According to the article: "The U.S. government's new tobacco regulations spell out the words, size and color of new cigarette warning labels -- but despite much publicity about tough new warnings, don't expect to see any for three years. Some public-health advocates worry it's a sign that federal action to cut smoking will come only slowly and cautiously -- a concern they'd had ever since the nation's No. 1 cigarette-maker, Henrico County-based Philip Morris USA, came out for regulation nearly a decade ago. ... "I think this is simply another example of where the propaganda concerning the FDA legislation is at odds with the actual substance of the bill," said Michael Siegel, a Boston University medical professor and tobacco-control advocate. "Even putting aside the length of time before the warning labels go into effect, the hype over the warning labels has been exaggerated," he said. "Evidence shows that while the warning labels may have a short-term impact, after a while people become used to them and don't pay attention anymore."

Dr. Alan Blum agreed: "I can't recall a bill with so little give and take," said Alan Blum, director of the University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society. "This was rammed down people's throats because of the deal they made with Philip Morris," he said. "In my opinion, there's this inside-the-Beltway mindset . . . saying, 'I don't care about the details, I'm going to get this bill through."

The Rest of the Story

This is indeed yet another example of the way in which the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other health groups have been spewing propaganda about the FDA tobacco legislation that is completely devoid of substance.

As I have highlighted in recent days, one area in which the bill is a complete hoax is in the elimination of cigarette flavorings. The American Cancer Society lied about the bill's effects on flavorings, asserting to the public that the bill had eliminated cigarette flavorings that entice youths. The same day, Philip Morris announced the introduction of Marlboro Menthol Blend No. 54, a new, full-flavored menthol product aimed at young people. The fact that the health groups have deceived the public to think that the bill eliminates flavorings that are enticing young people to smoke -- going so far as to lie about the bill's effects -- is the first example of how the health groups' assertions about the legislation are pure propaganda.

Another area in which the bill is a complete hoax is in its provision for product safety standards. It turns out that they are not "safety" standards at all. Supporters of the legislation themselves have admitted that they don't even think that cigarettes can be made safer by regulating the chemicals in the smoke. And as I revealed late last week, there are more than 10,000 chemicals in the smoke -- most of them unidentified -- making it impossible for the FDA to mandate a safer cigarette by reducing or eliminating certain of the known constituents.

A third hoax is the claim of bill supporters that the legislation addresses youth addiction to tobacco, protecting our next generation from addiction. The bill does precisely the opposite, institutionalizing nicotine in cigarettes and ensuring that the tobacco companies will always be able to entice youths by adding nicotine to cigarettes. Congress has absolutely no intention of the FDA mandating virtually nicotine-free cigarettes and the bill's supporters have admitted as much.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch article has completed the picture of the FDA legislation by now exposing that even the effects of the one positive provision of the bill - its requirement for stronger warning labels on cigarette packs - have been grossly over-exaggerated by the health groups and that the warning labels will have only a marginal, and very short-lived effect.

While the warning labels will likely have a short-term effect when they are first introduced, smokers will quickly get used to the labels and in a matter of time, will largely forget about them. Functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain in smokers has demonstrated that the warning labels actually serve as a stimulus to the part of the brain that signals the desire to smoke. This research suggests that over time, the warning labels are ignored and they simply come to be viewed as part of the cigarette package.

Of course, the ultimate irony -- which the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is not advertising to its constituents -- is that the Campaign actually opposed the graphic warning labels when they were first added to the bill in 2007. Now how's that for hypocrisy?

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