The Washington Post reminds us of one more reason not to vote for Obama or McCain in November: they’re both co-sponsors of the bill to put tobacco products under oversight of the FDA. The Post supports this, of course, presumably on the theory that regulation is always good and regulation of evil tobacco companies is even better. The fact that Philip Morris supports the proposal too suggests it’s not as good an idea as they believe it to be.
If this becomes law, makers of alternative tobacco products, such as smokeless tobacco, will be explicitly forbidden from mentioning in advertising or any other forum that their product is safer than cigarettes, even though this is true. The development and marketing of safer cigarettes could be blocked and “low tar” labels eliminated. The FDA could mandate lower nicotine levels, causing current smokers to inhale more cigarettes to ingest the same dose. Smokers who prefer flavored cigarettes are completely screwed, as every flavor except for menthol will be banned. This is all to the good of Philip Morris, maker of the popular Marlboro menthol brand; new restrictions on advertising and the costs of complying with new regulations will prevent smaller companies from eating into its market share, while denying consumers valuable information about the relative safety of other forms of tobacco will keep other competition at bay. (See this Reason article for details.)
This bill will not hurt Philip Morris and won’t keep consumers safe. It will eliminate consumer choice, secure the Big Tobacco oligopoly, and ensure that existing smokers are more likely to die from their habit. Bush, to his credit, has opposed it. In this regard, at least, his replacement will be significantly worse that he is.
Freshly minted bias