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.
A resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, Wayne Parson is an Injury Attorney that has dedicate his life to improving the delivery of justice to the people of his community and throughout the United States. He is driven to make sure that the wrongful, careless or negligent behavior that caused his clients' injury or loss does not happen to others.