NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 25, 2004

Allowing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco sounds great to farmers and health activists, but will end up hurting the poor and creating an even greater black market for cigarettes, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

A lobby of various special interest groups is asking Congress to regulate tobacco in exchange for buying out tobacco farming quotas. Ostensibly, farmers will get needed cash, health activists will get more government regulation of cigarettes and cigarette producers may be shielded from costly lawsuits. The House has passed a $10 billion buy-out quota, but now the Senate must decide on new FDA regulations.

However, the proposal would create unintended consequences, says CEI:

  • One-third of cigarette smokers earn less than $25,000 per year and many of them are minorities; excess regulations would increase their costs, and history shows that most smokers will forgo purchasing other goods rather than giving up smoking.
  • Cigarettes were the most traded black-market item in 2003, accounting for 44 percent of the domestic value of items confiscated; additional regulations would further encourage the black market.
  • Over 80 percent of Americans already know the health hazards of smoking, but nearly 25 percent continue to smoke; additional regulations would further reduce individuals' sense of personal responsibility.

Additionally, the regulation of tobacco may create a slippery slope, where government is compelled to regulate anything that might be unhealthy, such as junk foods.

Source: Fred L. Smith, Jr. "The FDA Poses Threat to our Health, Liberty," Investor's Business Daily, June 21, 2004.


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