FDA Regulation Likely for Tobacco - Let's Do It RIGHT..

January 9, 2009 - It's been rumored that 111th (January 3, 2009, until January 3, 2011) U.S. Congress plans to move aggressively against the tobacco industry in coming months by regulating tobacco. The House of Representatives voted 326-102 last year to put the FDA in charge of regulating the health risks of tobacco. Bush administration opposed it, saying the measure would strain the agency and undermine its credibility. The measure didn’t get a Senate vote, although the chamber’s version had 59 co-sponsors, including Obama, then a senator from Illinois. "We hope for early action on the bill in the new Congress," Melissa Wagoner, a spokeswoman for Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, said of the landmark legislation, which Kennedy has promoted for years.

Obama staff says he hasn't decided what action he might take on the measures in the White House, but Congress-watchers say his election is a game-changer for tobacco regulation. President--Elect Barack Obama and Tobacco..

Regulation of the tobacco industry is absolutely necessary but let's do it RIGHT. It's time to take another look with less input from the major company (Altria controls over half of the U.S. tobacco market) congress is trying to regulate. As Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY) has pointed out, "Poison peddlers shouldn’t get to decide how we as responsible legislators fight the war against their deadly products."

The current bill called the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act or sometimes called the Altria Earnings Protection Act is the result of negotiations between the tobacco control group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Philip Morris (PM) - the biggest player in the tobacco industry. We worry that the legislation will be flawed because the biggest player in the tobacco industry has been directly involved in writing the bill that regulates their industry. The true motivation behind the FDA tobacco regulation bill may be a big company’s desire to kill off its smaller competitors. The watered-down terms in the current bill resulted from legislators' belief that the bill won't pass without PM's buy-in - this is NOT TRUE anymore. Matthew L. Myers, the head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, has even said, “The election of Barack Obama changes everything.”

American Association of Public Health Physicians believes that this bill is so distorted (in its present form)in favor of Altria–Philip Morris that, if passed in its current form, it will do more harm than good in terms of future levels of teen smoking and future rates of tobacco-related illness and death. It can protect cigarettes or it can protect the public's health. It cannot do both. (Joel L. Nitzkin, M.D., M.P.H., FDA Regulation of Tobacco, New Eng. J. Med. 359: 2070-2071, (Nov 6) 2008.)

Many concessions have been granted to get tobacco companies to buy into this legislation weakening the bill even further, e.g., UST Inc. - now owned by Altria, the biggest U.S. maker of smokeless tobacco products and the North American unit of Swedish Match AB which also sells smokeless tobacco announced they would support the bill. The bill was amended to give smokeless companies the ability to give away free samples to adults under limited circumstances which hadn't been allowed in earlier versions of the bill.

Tobacco companies are hoping to persuade the new administration to go for "harm reduction" as a goal, rather than a push for smokers to stop completely.

All tobacco products with no exceptions are highly addictive and dangerous to health; as the World Health Organization tells us "Tobacco is Deadly in Any Form or Disguise." This conclusion was recently reinforced by Michael Leavitt, Secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services when he wrote: "Tobacco products are not safe and cannot be made safe and there is no medically established public health benefit associated with tobacco" in a letter to Joe Barton, R-Texas the senior Republican on the Senate's Energy and Commerce Committee. In the legislation all tobacco products must be considered equally.

R.J. Reynolds is about to release three dissolvable flavored tobacco products in different dosage forms: a pellet like a Tic Tac candy, a toothpick laced with enough nicotine to addict the user for life and maybe the worst an edible film strip like a Listerine pocketpaks. Our kids are going to love this stuff. (STOP the Release of Dissolvable Tobacco Products..

Related news brief: Revise Senate's Version FDA Tobacco Regulation Bill.. - Many more references can be found in this news brief.

References: Kennedy Wants Cigarette Risks Regulated in Obama-Backed Bill by Rob Waters, Bloomberg News, 1/6/2009; Coming Down on Tobacco by DUFF WILSON, The New York Times, 1/5/2009.