New Showdown in Tobacco Wars Industry Has Escaped Regulation under Health and Safety Laws
Durbin, Richard J., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
If tobacco companies produced a nicotine-free cigarette, would many people buy it? Probably not. Nicotine is the addictive ingredient that keeps many smokers coming back for more despite the adverse health affects of smoking. If nicotine were removed from cigarettes, most people would finally be able to kick the habit.
Until recently, the nicotine levels in cigarettes were thought to be the work of nature. However, the Food and Drug Administration has said there is evidence that tobacco companies are manipulating nicotine levels in cigarettes to increase their addictive hold on smokers.
A former tobacco company manager provided ABC's "Day One" with a more detailed description of the process tobacco companies use to strip nicotine from cigarettes and then reinject it into the product. This process makes the cigarette nothing more than a nicotine dispenser used to deliver an addictive, unsafe drug to the consumer.
In a letter to health groups, FDA Commissioner David Kessler said that cigarettes are not exempt from regulation under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act if there is an intent to deliver a drug to a consumer. And, Kessler said, "should the agency make this finding based on an appropriate record or be able to prove these facts in court, it would have a legal basis on which to regulate these products under the drug provisions of the act." This shameful evidence of nicotine manipulation led the FDA to call for the regulation of cigarettes and their content.
Other products that are designed to deliver specific amounts of nicotine to the consumer, such as nicotine patches and gum, require a physician's prescription and are regulated by the FDA.
I commend Kessler for taking this bold action.
I agree that the federal government has a responsibility to regulate tobacco. That is why my colleague, Rep. Mike Synar, D-Okla., and I introduced the Fairness in Tobacco and Nicotine Regulation Act which would give the FDA the full authority to regulate the manufacture, sale, labeling, advertising and promotion of tobacco products, without banning the product,
The tobacco industry now has a virtual free rein in advertising, labeling and selling cigarettes. Its product is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths in America every year and costs our country about $68 billion in health-related expenses and lost productivity. Yet the industry has managed to escape the regulation that all foods, drugs, cosmetics and other consumer products are subject to. Tobacco products are exempt from all major federal consumer health and safety laws. …