SMOKE AND MIRRORS
June 29, 2004
To the surprise of many observers, the nation's largest tobacco company, Philip Morris, has joined forces with a number of anti-tobacco groups to push for regulation of tobacco, says Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center.
Such a combination of long-time foes should give us pause, says Boehm, and it should make us wonder what is afoot. The proposed legislation would create numerous restrictions on tobacco advertising, leading many to conclude that one of the goals of Altria Group, Inc., parent company of Philip Morris, is to lock-in and protect its market share.
Beyond the issue of preserving market share -- which is reason enough to question the logic and wisdom of this legislation -- the tobacco regulation bill as currently written is flawed in a number of ways, says Boehm.
Key provisions of the bill authorize the FDA to take or refuse action based on whether the decision is "appropriate for the public health."
- These provisions include restrictions on tobacco-product sales and marketing, tobacco-product standards, pre-market approval of new tobacco products and claims of reduced exposure to tobacco-product constituents.
- The standard provides no legislative guidance to the FDA and no judicially enforceable limits on the agency's discretion.
- Another section of the legislation imposes the burden on tobacco companies to prove that any tobacco-product standard devised by the FDA will not work:
In an era when more and more people are coming to see that government regulation -- no matter what the industry -- is no panacea, we have to look behind the curtain when a company steps up and says to the government, "Please regulate me," explains Boehm.
Source: Ken Boehm, "Weighted scales," Washington Times, June 29, 2004.
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