Tobacco Fed Regs is Philip Morris running the show..

May 19, 2009 - After more than half a century of debate and discussion, it is likely that Congress will pass legislation bringing tobacco products under the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA first tried to regulate tobacco in the 1990s, but the industry battled it to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5 to 4 in 2000 that the agency had exceeded its statutory authority. It called on Congress to amend the law.

Senator Edward Kennedy, with a history of working to better the lives of working families, as the primary sponsor of this legislation there is no doubt the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act" will soon be passed by the senate and signed into law by President Obama.

It hard to believe that with congress controlled by democrats and a democratic president that Philip Morris (PM) had to get directly involved in order for this bill to become law. We know that the legislation that the House approved and the Senate will consider represents the results of negotiations between the tobacco control group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Philip Morris - the biggest player in the tobacco industry. The legislation has worked out so well for PM that the bill has been dubbed by Fortune Magazine the "Altria Earnings Protection Act."

We worry that the legislation has been flawed because the biggest player (with over half of the tobacco market) in the tobacco industry has been directly involved in writing the bill that regulates their industry. Matthew L. Myers the President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has even said, “The election of Barack Obama changes everything.”

The true motivation behind the FDA tobacco regulation bill may be a big company’s desire to kill off its smaller competitors. In short, it will lock in Altria's dominant position in the market. Mike Szymanczyk now the CEO of Altria, Inc., the parent of PM-USA informed investors that they are directly involved in this legislation (Remarks, Investor Presentation, 3/11/2008) U.S. 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." Senator Enzi went on to say that he wants to see some kind of legislation on tobacco but is opposed to the Kennedy measure. "It makes me leery when a tobacco company is backing this," he said. "Nothing changes in it without Philip Morris's approval."

American Association of Public Health Physicians believe that this bill is so distorted 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. Stanton A. Glantz, the founder and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, and a professor of cardiology: “Going into partnership with them or cutting deals with them, there’s not a single case anytime anywhere in the world where that’s worked.”

The primary sponsor in the House, Henry Waxman, a leading foe of the tobacco industry, in response to a question about how he could promote a bill that is supported by Philip Morris, Representative Waxman stated: "Philip Morris is supporting it for their own reasons. This is a good bill and a strong bill. I don’t think we’ve made any concessions that we’d want to change." Obviously Waxman has a lot on his plate and hasn't even had the time to read the bill in detail.

Philip Morris which for years disputed research that found smoking was addictive and contributed to many health problems turned a blind eye when health-advocacy non-profit agencies stated that “Philip Morris shows contempt for women and their health by putting a pink gloss on Virginia Slims that causes lung cancer and heart disease, two of the leading killers of women.” In October 2008, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Philip Morris started marketing Virginia Slims with a slender "purse pack" in the same color of soft pink associated with the cancer campaign. Even Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids who partnered with Altria to write the tobacco regulation bill condemned Philip Morris for targeting women and girls.

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.

Regulation of the tobacco industry is absolutely necessary but we felt with the present political climate it could be done RIGHT with less input from Altria. It is unfortunate that this piece of legislation may be the last for Senator Edward M. Kennedy - a legislator that has done so much to better the lives of the average person.

References: Chances Bright for Legislation Seeking FDA Regulation of Tobacco by Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post, 5/11/2009.

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May 15, 2009 at 10:27 AM

Outstanding blog you've got here (this isn't spam I'm being serious!)

Please do keep us informed... the more info we've got out there about the dangers of big tobacco the more people we can keep safe!