Smokin Aces

  • by: |
  • 03/10/2008
The House Energy and Commerce Committee's health subcommittee is scheduled to pick up Tuesday where it left off Thursday, discussing and possibly amending the tobacco-control legislation before certain passage. The full committee would then take up the bill, and passage there appears certain as well.

Then it's on to the House, where a bit more than half its members (220, to be precise) are co-sponsors of the bill. In the Senate, similar legislation has 56 co-sponsors – including Senators McCain, Clinton, and Obama.

Is cigarette smoking deleterious to America's health. Absolutely. Should Americans who currently smoke quit? Absolutely. Should the FDA regulate tobacco products? Absolutely not.

One major problem with the proposed legislation is that it sets a very high bar (both scientific and procedural) before the FDA could approve a claim of "modified risk." The impact here would be to reduce any tobacco company's ability (or, most probably, desire) to promote their brands that are lower in nicotine content or, indeed, to even develop such products.

Or consider this, adult smoking has been declining since 1997 due to a number of things including clean air laws, media campaigns, and youth access programs. And these victories were achieved on the state level. If FDA became the nation's tobacco czar, it would become difficult if not impossible (given today’s economic circumstances) to convince state legislators to continue to allocate the funds required for robust state-level tobacco control programs.

Then, of course, there's the question of both FDA resources and expertise. Let's take the latter first. What is the current level of FDA expertise in tobacco regulation? Zero. As far as resources are concerned, the FDA's tobacco program would be funded by user fees. And, considering the current state of FDA funding and staffing, you have to ask yourself if this is really the way we want to be going.

So, when you consider all of these issues, the answer to "Will FDA regulation of tobacco help to reduce tobacco use in America?" is very much an open one.

So for now, thank you for not regulating.

FYI -- the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (the sponsor of does not accept funding from the tobacco industry.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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