Friday, December 14, 2012

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (and the FDA) are Obsessed with Fake Protection of the Public's Health by Preventing New Cigarettes that are the Same as Old Cigarettes from Entering the Market; Meanwhile, Existing Cigarettes Enjoy a Free Ride and Continue to Kill Hundreds of Thousands

While existing cigarettes - the most toxic consumer products on the market - continue to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the FDA continue to obsess about new cigarette introductions, thus creating a fake impression that they are protecting the public's health. In reality, they are doing the opposite: endangering the public's health by ensuring that safer products do not get into smokers' hands.

According to a breaking report from Michael Felberbaum at the Associated Press, the FDA has prevented the tobacco companies from introducing almost any new products in the past 18 months, despite having submitted nearly 3500 applications and although many of these products are almost identical to products already on the market.

Moreover, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is gravely concerned about a few new cigarette brands that are very similar to existing brands, while doing everything it can to prevent a truly safer product - electronic cigarettes - from taking hold in the market.

According to the article: "They have the burden of demonstrating that new products and product changes won't increase youth tobacco use, won't increase toxicity and won't wrongly deter people from quitting," said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The group has raised concerns about new products that it says were illegally introduced without review by Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., parent company of Philip Morris USA, the nation's largest tobacco company, and No. 2 tobacco maker Reynolds American Inc. Philip Morris USA's Marlboro Black NXT - a cigarette that can be switched to menthol by crushing a capsule in the filter - and two new styles of Reynolds' Pall Mall menthol cigarettes shouldn't be allowed to be sold without FDA approval, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids argues. The companies, however, believe they are complying with federal law. The FDA says it is investigating. It's essential that the FDA move "strongly and decisively to make public either why these products should be allowed to be marketed or to get them pulled off the market immediately," Myers said."

While the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are urging the FDA to pull these new cigarettes off the market, they are not calling on the agency to pull existing brands off the market, and have in fact discouraged the agency from removing existing menthol cigarettes from the market.

The FDA, although working diligently to keep any new cigarettes from being introduced - cigarettes which are virtually identical to existing ones - has done nothing to regulate existing cigarettes to make them any safer.

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that the Tobacco Act is working exactly as I predicted it would: as a way to protect the existing cigarettes on the market and block any real possibility of competition from what could be truly safer products.

While the FDA is obsessing about whether a cigarette with a slight change in its name should be allowed on the market, pretending to be in some way protecting the public health, it has taken no steps to address the lack of safety of existing cigarettes. The FDA has not taken a single action that will make existing cigarettes any safer for smokers. And at the same time, it has done everything it could to prevent a truly safer product - electronic cigarettes - from gaining any foothold in the market, thus protecting the profits of cigarette companies over the health of the public.

It was discouraging to see that Dr. Deyton - the director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products - embraced the approach of obsessing about minor changes in cigarettes that, an action that does nothing to protect the public's health.

According to the article: "In an interview with the AP, Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said the agency is working with companies to get more information about products and hopes the industry will be more transparent about its reasoning that product changes don't affect public health. Small changes in ingredients or additives can make a cigarette more addictive or harmful, Deyton said. "Though cigarettes seem like a very simple product - chopped-up tobacco rolled in paper ... we know that cigarettes are highly engineered. They're technologically incredibly sophisticated," said Deyton."

Is the FDA actually suggesting that different brands of cigarettes on the market - each of which contains different ingredients and additives - have different levels of safety? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. This is precisely what it means when you suggest that the agency must monitor for small changes in additives or ingredients because those changes affect the safety of the product in a way that is material to the public's health.

According to this reasoning, the FDA is lying on its web site when it says that no cigarette is any safer than any other cigarette. Clearly, the agency does not believe this is true.

It sends a terribly destructive message to the public: that there are indeed safer brands of cigarettes on the market and that smokers should be concerned about the exact additives and ingredients in their brands.

This is utter nonsense. There is no meaningful difference in the safety profile of any of these cigarettes, as the FDA itself acknowledges on its web site. And to suggest anything else to the public is not only disingenuous but also damaging to the public's appreciation of the dangers of smoking and of the utter futility in trying to protect one's health by switching to one brand of cigarettes over another brand.

The only way to protect oneself by switching tobacco products is to use an entirely different class of products. Case in point: switching from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes would indeed offer tremendous public health benefits.

Sadly, this is the one type of benefit that the FDA is trying to prevent smokers from taking advantage of. 

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