New Rules on Cigarette Sales Infringe on Rights of Adults

Article excerpt

The day the Food and Drug Administration's new rules on tobacco sales went into effect, one European visitor said he didn't mind being forced to show identification to buy cigarettes, even though at 29 he is 11 years older than the minimum age. "As a Romanian," said Ravzan Faer, "I am used to all sorts of security."

The FDA is striving mightily to make America the kind of place where a veteran of Soviet bloc communism can feel at home. Last week, retailers and consumers were confronted with an order that no one under age 27 may purchase tobacco without first supplying proof of age. This is just the beginning of an FDA campaign that ostensibly aims at keeping cigarettes away from kids but will appreciably cramp the freedom of adults.

The new rule on sales to those 27 and under is a novel twist: Not only is it illegal to sell cigarettes to a minor, as it should be, but it is forbidden to sell to an adult who might possibly be a minor without first inspecting an ID. The agency could simply punish those who make underage sales and let store owners figure out the best way to avoid them, but it would hate to pass up an opportunity to give orders. The FDA has more regulations on the way. Starting in August, it will begin the ambitious task of thought control by slapping new restrictions on what adults as well as children may see, read and even wear. Billboards advertising cigarettes will be outlawed within 1,000 feet of a school or public playground, which means vast stretches of entire cities will be off-limits. Tobacco companies will be prohibited from producing merchandise with their logos. Magazines guilty of having 15 percent or more of their readers under age 18 will be permitted to run only stark "tombstone" ads for tobacco products - "black text on white background without pictures or colors." All these regulations are rooted in the agency's sudden discovery, 59 years after the passage of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, that the FDA has the power to regulate tobacco. Why? Because, it says, nicotine is a drug, and cigarettes are nothing more than "drug-delivery devices." But the FDA doesn't take this line of reasoning seriously. If it did, it would feel obligated to regulate caffeine as a drug and coffee as a drug-delivery device. …