Thursday, March 03, 2011

Despite Its Current Rhetoric, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Stood With Tobacco Industry in Opposing Menthol Ban Because of Black Market Concerns

In response to the lawsuit brought by Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds against the FDA to prevent the agency from receiving a menthol report from its Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids attacked these tobacco companies, arguing that they are "putting profits ahead of lives and health."

What few people know, however, is that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids itself put politics ahead of lives and health when it opposed an amendment that would have removed the menthol exemption from the cigarette flavoring ban. Moreover, the Campaign used the same argument that Lorillard is now putting forward to stave off a ban: that such a ban would result in a black market which would itself have negative public health consequences.

Here is what the Campaign argued, in its own words: "Unlike the candy flavors, there's more than 10 million people in the United States who smoke menthol cigarettes. If you immediately withdrew a product so many people use and are addicted to, you can't say for certain what the reaction would be. Would these smokers look to get their fix from other nonmentholated cigarettes or would they start to use another substance?" The Campaign also warned of the possibility of "illegal trafficking in menthol cigarettes."

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids had its opportunity to advocate for a ban on menthol cigarettes. Instead of standing up to save "lives and health" and to put lives and health first, the Campaign lobbied against removing the menthol exemption, arguing that a menthol ban could result in a black market and associated negative consequences.

The truth, then, is that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is full of crap. They are attacking the tobacco companies for putting other interests above lives and health, but they did exactly the same thing when they helped make sure that a ban on menthol would never see the light of day.

Let's face it. The only chance that a menthol ban would have had of being implemented is if it had been included in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. That is where the battle over menthol was fought, and lost. Sadly, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids fought on the side of Big Tobacco.

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