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Wayne Parsons
Wayne Parsons
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Senate passes Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act giving FDA regulatory control of tobacco industry.

13 comments

I can hear Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity and Chaney moaning and whining already about the American people getting control of the runaway train that their FDA has turned loose on the public for the past decade. Big Tobacco and Big Pharma and Big Insurance have been running this country in key ways that affect the public for a long time now. Congress was afraid of them. The President often made back room deals with them. Of course the insurance industry and the AMA and Big Pharma ran beautiful television commercials with actors pretending to be real people and told lies to the public about the issues so the real people who were victims of this greed and corruption would sleep well thinking that their interests were safe. The word for this type of false propaganda in Hawaii is "shibai". So to all of those corporate CEO’s in the tobacco industry who have been responsible for a huge number of deaths and trillions and trillions of tax dollars for added health care, I say your time has come: the people are in charge now and your time is up.

Congress just put the tobacco industry under the control of the FDA! Power to the people. And for Rush Limbaugh who loves to lambaste all government, we the people are the government. Its my government and we need a government and the lord only knows we need more regulation of these scalawags in corporate board rooms who are useless failures and have ripped off the public.

One last note before I get to the news on this historic FDA legislation: smoking tobacco isn’t as voluntary as the tobacco industry apologists like Hannity and Limbaugh would have you believe. Back in the 1950s one of the big tobacco companies had a project called "Sweet Little 16". It was a secret project because it was disgusting. It should have been criminal. The Sweet Little 16" Project was a marketing plan that said "most of our best customers (heavy adult smokers) begin smoking between the ages of 12 to 16. We should target the 12 to 16 year olds in our advertising campaigns". They did that with expensive psychological tested messages and images that seduced children to become addicted to cigarettes. If we don’t throw people who do those kinds of things into jail for the rest of their lives then regulating such an industry is at least a first step.

Now for the good news!

A number of media outlets, including all three evening network news broadcasts, reported on yesterday’s Senate vote approving giving the FDA the power to regulate tobacco products. USA Today (6/12, Koch) reports that the Senate voted 79-17 yesterday to approve legislation giving the FDA "the authority to regulate tobacco products," noting in its lead that "cigarettes marketed as ‘light,’ ‘low’ tar or ‘mild’ will be banned within a year" under the "historic bill." The bill, mirroring legislation passed by the House in April, "comes after more than a decade of congressional debate and a half-century since the U.S. Surgeon General’s 1964 landmark report linking smoking to lung cancer." As the New York Times reports:

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the new law would reduce youth smoking by 11 percent and adult smoking by 2 percent over the next decade, in addition to reductions already achieved through other actions, like higher taxes and smoke-free indoor space laws.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, as it is called, stops short of empowering the F.D.A. to outlaw smoking or ban nicotine — strictures that even most antismoking advocates acknowledged were not politically feasible and might drive people addicted to nicotine into a criminal black market.

But the law would give the F.D.A. power to set standards that could reduce nicotine content and regulate chemicals in cigarette smoke. The law also bans most tobacco flavorings, which are considered a lure to first-time smokers. Menthol was deferred to later studies. Health advocates predict that F.D.A. standards could eventually reduce some of the 60 carcinogens and 4,000 toxins in cigarette smoke, or make it taste so bad it deters users.

ABC World News (6/11, story 3, 2:25, Gibson) characterized the vote as "a big comeuppance for Big Tobacco," stating that the tobacco industry’s "great sway in Congress" is "no more." ABC (Harris) added, "This afternoon on the floor of the Senate, where senators still have ceremonial spittoons for chewing tobacco spit, and where Big Tobacco lobby money has fended off FDA regulation for more than a decade, anti-smoking forces finally had their day."

The CBS Evening News (6/11, lead story, 2:25, Couric) led its coverage with the story of Congress’ "unprecedented action to try to reduce the number of smoking-related deaths in this country." CBS (Cordes) added, "The landmark legislation is designed to keep kids from starting the habit and help adults kick it." Sen. Christopher Dodd: "For the first time in the history of our country, the Food and Drug Administration will be able to regulate tobacco products." In a follow-up segment, The CBS Evening News (6/11, story 2, 2:25, Couric) reported ran an interview with anchor Katie Couric and former FDA Chief David Kessler," who called the bill "a landmark piece of legislation. For the first time, we have the opportunity to regulate this deadly, addictive product." CBS News (6/12) runs a partial transcript of the interview on its website.

NBC Nightly News (6/11, story 3, 2:15, Williams) reported, "now the government is about to get sweeping new power to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products."

The AP (6/12, Abrams) calls the bill "a historic blow against smoking in America," noting that it will "give regulators new power to limit nicotine in the cigarettes that kill nearly a half-million people a year, to drastically curtail ads that glorify tobacco and to ban flavored products aimed at spreading the habit to young people." The AP reports that President Obama "said he was eager to sign the legislation, and the House planned a vote for Friday. Cigarette foes said the measure would not only cut deaths but reduce the $100 billion in annual health care costs linked to tobacco." This article notes that after years of "fierce opposition," Phillip Morris is supporting the bill, though smaller rivals complain "that was because [it] could lock in" market share.

The Los Angeles Times (6/12, Hook) reports that the vote "was a sign of the diminished clout of the tobacco industry after decades of holding sway on Capitol Hill, thanks to generous campaign contributions, well-connected lobbyists and the seniority of tobacco-state lawmakers such as the late Sen. Jesse Helms."

McClatchy (6/12, Barrett) reports that Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy called the bill’s passage a "miracle," though tobacco advocates "said that the new regulation would cost jobs, hurt farmers and maintain the market dominance of tobacco giant Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboros." North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R) "held up Senate floor matters for nearly two weeks to protest the bill" which he argued would overtax the FDA.

The Wall Street Journal (6/12, B5, Mundy, Etter) notes that "companies are weighing the impact of the bill, which they say also puts severe, perhaps unconstitutional, restrictions on advertising and packaging. Those limits, they worry, could undo business plans based on smokeless tobacco products, which they have been developing in anticipation of this day — even as they were fighting to derail the legislation."

The Washington Post (6/12, Layton) notes that much of the bill is intended to prevent children from beginning smoking, including a ban on fruit flavoring and youth-oriented advertising. Deep in the article, the Post relates the personal anecdotes of Senators personally impacted by tobacco use.

The New York Times (6/12, A1, Wilson) runs a front-page story on the vote, and the Financial Times (6/12, Braithwaite), Roll Call (6/12, Brady), CNN (6/12), Dow Jones Newswires (6/12, Johnson), the Washington Times (6/12, Miller), and The Hill (6/12, Rushing) also report on it. The AP (6/12) runs a sidebar featuring the "main provisions of the bill.

Top beneficiaries of tobacco lobby voted no. McClatchy (6/11, Abdullah) reported that "some of the top recipients of campaign contributions from the tobacco industry" voted against the Senate bill, citing the $419,000 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has received over the course of his career, as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics. "North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who led the opposition to the bill, is the second highest recipient and netted $359,100 from tobacco-related political action committees and individual contributions." McClatchy relates similar, though smaller, contributions to Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) and Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning (R).

NYTimes celebrates regulation of "rogue industry." Under the headline "Tobacco Regulation, At Last," the New York Times (6/12, A26) editorializes that the vote means that "the days when this rogue industry could inflict its harmful products on Americans with impunity are drawing to a close. This is an enormous victory for public health. For that, we owe thanks to tireless advocacy by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a nonprofit organization, and strong endorsements from medical groups." The Times concedes that "the bill is not perfect," but praises the "far-reaching powers" vested in the FDA.

13 Comments

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  1. Tony Dockery says:
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    Whats worse big business or big government only time will tell.

  2. Lisa says:
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    You can hear Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity and Cheney moaning and whining? Oh please, government needs to STOP getting involved in everything. People should be able to say/do what they want. If it happens to be something that will alter their health (in this case,tobacco), that’s their OWN decision. You can’t force someone to do something a certain way. I’m personally not a smoker and I absolutely hate being around it and the great thing is, I don’t have to!!! That’s my choice!! Maybe America should turn into a communist/socialistic country because that’s where we are headed anyway! Great job Obama!

  3. elmo says:
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    Wow! Every morning when I go to work I pass by a bunch of kids who want to sell me CRACK & WEED,The cops go up and down te street all the time as well. No one will do anything to clean that up while this carnival street of ours invites most school kids. I’d say any kid I know can go out and buy weed without being afraid of getting caught smoking it. But the government has once again come down on legal tobacco smokers. AMAZING!

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    Thanks for speaking up, Tony and Lisa!

    Tony: What do you think is worse than what is going on? Big government or Big Corporations are not the issue are they? It is big loss of jobs and big national debt as I see it.

    Lisa: Thanks for lighting the fires and kicking the tires. I am very interested in whether others feel that it is perfectly okay and patriotic for tobacco companies to use slick advertisements on our home television sets during kids cartoons to addict 12 year-olds to an addictive drug? Lisa does not mind that. And she will stand with Palin and Gingrich and Rush and Hannity and O’Reilly (the Republican Party)and accuse anyone including a mom in St. Louis or Brooklyn who thinks that tobacco industry and U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyists are wrong, as being Communists. Maybe Lisa is right. What do you think?

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    Elmo: Is what is “legal” what counts? Alcohol is legal. Tobacco is legal. Should they be legal. What do think about those who say legalize everything and then control those who misbehave. What about prescription drugs that make people do bad things?

    Elmo does have a point about laws and the police. But what do we do about it? It is Elmo and Lisa and me that must take a stand. They did and I appreciate that. But what about their friends and families and kids? Do they agree? Does anyone other than Lisa and Elmo even care?

  6. Steve Lombardi says:
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    Lisa: Would you allow freedoms to go unchecked? How far would you go advocating complete freedom? And at what point would complete freedom turn into chaos? Do you advocate for freedom to sell “Crack and weed” in Elmo’s neighborhood? Or could the money generated in regulating Big Tabacco be used to police Elmo’s neighborhood?

    Elmo: How do you like the drug dealers having complete freedom in your neighborhood?

  7. James Cool says:
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    Elmo and Lisa:

    I tend to agree with you that Tobacco ought to be legal. Unlike most on the plaintiffs bar arena I tend to lean libertarian and value small government and individual choice. That said, while I believe individuals ought to retain the freedom to choose to smoke, I’m not altogether disturbed by the idea that we required the tobacco companies to make a safer product, complete with sincere, earnest advertising.

    I suppose we could say that people are free to eat diseased meat or use dangerous prescription drugs and shouldn’t need warnings. I suppose those warnings might make us “socialistic” (although I suspect you have no idea what either of the words you used actually means in a broader sense), but they might also make us safer and healthier. No one balks at the notion of the FDA regulating prescription drugs or meat, or other consumer products….so why the objection to smoking?

    It’s obvious: You’re addicted. Big tobacco has you hook, line, and sinker and now you’re their willing servant, an echo chamber for Rush, Hannity, and whatever numbnut talking head they put up on Fox News this week.

    Come back when the FDA bans cigarettes. Then you’ll find I am your ally. While I agree that people have the right to make their own bad decisions, I see no reason not to regulate this and make it a safer product.

    Also, Elmo….about the drugs….don’t even get me started on the “war on drugs.” For what it’s worth, that’s an entirely different discussion.

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    I am interested in how Lisa nad elmo feel about a company spending millions of dollars to seduce 12 year olds to use an addictive product? The idea was to get 12 year olds to become addicted to cigarettes. Is that okay with Lisa? Is that allowed in the free country that Lisa and Limbaugh and Hannity want? Lisa did not mention that but I assume she would approve of stopping that business.

    And I do share some of the sentiment about people doing this to themselves. That is a closer and tougher issue and Jimmy Cool said it pretty well I think.

  9. Mike Bryant says:
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    The hooking of children is criminal, absolutely no question about it. As to the socialist speak, I guess people saying that weren’t around to see where the economy was at a year ago. The leaders of these companies have done a miserable job and are now begging the government to save them. Tobacco has been doing it forever.

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    Great information, Wayne. It’s about time the FDA put a stop to deceptive advertising from the tobacco industry. Light cigarettes? How many times have people been fooled by that? If the FDA doesn’t get involved to strong-arm the tobacco industry, who will? Us the people? We haven’t done it.

    Lisa, you mentioned that we all have a choice about cigarettes. As adults we do. But kids under the age of 18 aren’t equipped to make choices about smoking. That’s why they are called kids and not adults. But cigarette companies get to them, even if their parents are involved and doing a great job to prevent smoking.

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    Thanks Martine. I value your opinion and respect the work that you do educating patients and doctors and hospitals about whaqt can go wrong in the hospital. Your book Critical Conditions – The Essential Hospital Guide To Get Your Loved Ones Out Alive(www.criticalconditions.com)has won some many awards now that I can’t keep track. Didn’t you just win another book award? Tell me about it. Thanks again for posting. Lisa seems to have moved on and I sort of wonder who she works for.

  12. Robert says:
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    Elmo and Lisa are missing the point. Clearly we are in a financial crisis as a nation. I am no longer interested in paying for someone elses health care bills or subsidizing research for health issues relating to smoking the tobacco companies should be paying for. The product is more addictive than heroin. The toll it takes on our national productivity is staggering. During work hours workers who smoke feel entiltled to take smoke breaks when the addiction kicks in and they need a fix. In the time leading up to their breaks their productivity is decreased and they are distracted and often cranky or anxious impacting the productivity of others. At best its a filthy habit that addicts the young and kills americans who smoke and those around them who inhale secog hand smoke that profits a few.

  13. Steve Lombardi says:
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    Amen Robert. I’m with you. Come back tomorrow and read my post “Part III: Tort Reform or Pork Reform? Where the ATRA all began.” It’s about Big Tobacco and how it affected my own family.