FDA Tobacco Regulation May Harm Public Health By Blocking Healthy Alternatives

Yesterday, Obama signed into law a deceptive FDA “tobacco regulation” bill that will undermine public health in the long run by protecting cigarette manufacturers against competition from less deadly tobacco products (which is why the nation’s largest cigarette maker supported the bill). As Bill Godshall of Smoke Free Pennsylvania notes, the bill “protects the most hazardous tobacco product (cigarettes) from market competition by the least hazardous (smokefree) tobacco products, as it:

* bans all new and recently introduced smokefree products, while keeping cigarettes on the market.
* deceives consumers to believe that smokefree tobacco products are just as hazardous as cigarettes
* prohibits industry from telling smokers that smokefree products are less hazardous than cigarettes . . .

“Cigarettes are 100 times deadlier than smokefree tobacco products, but 85% of smokers incorrectly believe that smokefree tobacco products are just as hazardous as cigarettes. By switching to smokefree tobacco/nicotine products, smokers reduce their health risks by nearly as much as by quitting all tobacco/nicotine, and millions have already done so.”

Patrick Basham calls the new law “an epic public health mistake.” As I noted earlier, FDA regulation may actually undermine public health by making it harder to market to smokers other tobacco products, like snus, that are not as lethal as cigarettes. As Jacob Sullum notes, the law will require snus “to carry a warning that it ‘is not a safe alternative to cigarettes,'” even though “there’s no question that snus is far less hazardous than cigarettes.” And to even “introduce a ‘modified risk product,’ a manufacturer has to convince the FDA not only that the product will ‘significantly reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease to individual tobacco users’ but also that it will ‘benefit the health of the population as a whole, taking into account both users of tobacco products and persons who do not currently use tobacco products.'”

The Examiner earlier described how the bill would reduce competition in the tobacco industry and enrich the biggest cigarette company at the expense of consumers and competitors alike. Although the bill is supported by the most well-funded anti-smoking groups (which indirectly receive money from Big Tobacco through the $246 billion Master Settlement Agreement), the bill’s “most important ally” is “the largest cigarette maker in the world.”

In other news, the FDA is blocking importation of so-called “E-cigarettes,” which are infinitely less dangerous than cigarettes because they do not emit any smoke. “If the FDA were to succeed in banning or restricting e-cigarettes, which are already illegal to sell in Australia and Hong Kong, the potential health risks to American smokers looking for a tar-free and less offensive cigarette alternative would be enormous.”