Five US senators call on FDA to do its job and actually regulate the tobacco industry

Editors  Note:   Those who argue that the FDA should act hastily without demanding that their actions be science based forget that such actions are subject to judicial review.  The courts are bound by statutes which require them to set aside actions which are arbitrary and not based upon sound science. To this end the resounding defeat the FDA suffered as a result of its emotional action on graphic tobacco warnings had to be an extreme embarrassment on its maiden voyage of regulation. Consequently it is not only understandable but sound public policy for FDA to proceed cautiously by adopting a science based approach to regulation including a complete review of the emergence of contraband tobacco.
University of California, San Francisco
Submitted by sglantz
Five US Senators — Frank Lautenberg, Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Sherrod Brown, and Richard Blumenthal — have written a letter to the FDA Commissioner urging the FDA to get the lead out and start effectively protecting consumers.


Among other things, the senators pointed out that, “cigarette companies continue to deceptively market their products, misleading consumers about the health consequences that come from smoking.  For example, American Spirit Cigarettes, made by Reynolds American subsidiary the Sante Fe Natural Tobacco Company, claim to be ‘natural’ and ‘organic,’ implying that these cigarettes are better for smokers’ health.  Likewise, Philip Morris Company sells Marlboro Smooths as well as Virgina Slims, whose names have similar ‘healthy’ connotations.  Additionally, companies use colors to suggest that some cigarettes are safer.  Marlboro now uses Gold and Silver as code for ‘light’ and ‘ultra light.'”

These concerns mirror increasing frustration I am hearing broadly across the health community.

It is no secret that I was skeptical that FDA regulation would come to anything.  While the FDA proposed good graphical warning labels, they accompanied their rule with an economic cost-benefit analysis that wildly overstated the costs and even more wildly understated the benefits, something Judge Leon seized on in his ruling against the warning labels.

And, of course, there is menthol.  Rather than acting on the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee conclusion that public health would benefit from removing menthol, the Agency embarked on its own additional report and peer review which will then be put out for more public comment — which the industry will respond with voluminous “comments” that the FDA will then have to deal with, creating more delays.

And all  the time, the cigarette companies will merrily keep pushing menthol to African Americans, women and kids.

It’s time for public health join with these senators and start demanding publicly that the FDA do its job.  Or we could all just admit that the agency has become so gummed up in its own internal culture that just sees the tobacco companies as one more “stakeholder” (rather than the racketeers they are) and stop wasting our time trying to convince an elephant to fly.

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