Thursday, June 02, 2011

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Statement on Proposed FDA Tobacco Act Amendments is Full of Crap

In response to an amendment being offered by Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT) that would gut the FDA Tobacco Act by precluding the agency from eliminating any tobacco constituent on the basis that it increases cigarette initiation, appeal, or addiction, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has issued a press release bemoaning the effect of this amendment on the FDA's ability to eliminate menthol from cigarettes.

The press release complains that: "Among other things, the Rehberg amendment would restrict the FDA's ability to regulate the use of menthol in cigarettes. The FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee in March 2011 issued an exhaustive report that concluded menthol increases the number of kids who start to smoke and reduces the number of smokers who quit. While the committee found there is insufficient evidence to conclude that menthol itself increases disease risk for individual smokers, it did conclude that menthol harms public health because it increases the number of people who smoke and the number who become sick and die as a result. Yet, under the Rehberg amendment, the FDA could not take action regarding menthol in order to prevent kids from starting to smoke or to help more smokers quit. The addition of menthol is just one example in the tobacco industry's long history of designing their products to make them more attractive to children and minorities, or more addictive and difficult to quit using."

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has been the leading supporter of the tobacco industry's long history of designing its products to make them more "attractive to children and minorities" (through menthol cigarettes). The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids opposed an amendment that would have deleted the menthol exemption from the cigarette flavorings ban and thus eliminated this tobacco industry method for making its products more attractive to "children and minorities."

Let's get this straight: the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids worked to ensure that menthol cigarettes would remain on the market and that tobacco companies would continue to have the ability to produce and market menthol cigarettes to attract kids, especially African Americans.

What argument did the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids use in opposing the amendment to include menthol cigarettes in the flavorings ban? The Campaign argued that the amendment would open up a huge black market. Ironically, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids advanced Lorillard's eventual argument in opposition to a menthol ban prior to the cigarette company having to even open its mouth.

The rest of the story is that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids did the tobacco industry's bidding during the Congressional negotiations that led to the Tobacco Act. The most significant protection in the legislation - the exemption of menthol cigarettes from the flavorings ban - was the direct result of lobbying by the Campaign.

Moreover, even when Congress was poised to remove the menthol exemption and it clearly appeared that there existed the political will to take such an action, the Campaign played a major role in blocking such an action by swiftly and unequivocally opposing the amendment and instructing all other anti-smoking groups to do the same.

And now, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has the gall to moan and complain about the chilling effect the Rehberg amendment might have on the regulation of menthol?

Regardless of how one feels about the regulation of menthol cigarettes, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' hypocrisy is beyond comprehension. This is an organization that is so full of crap that there is literally no room to hold any more.

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