The Post gets duped by Big Tobacco

The Washington Post editorial board, which has never seen an anti-tobacco regulation it doesn’t like, pushed again on Friday for giving regulatory authority over tobacco to the FDA. Their editorial includes this line:

These sensible restrictions are why more than 1,000 organizations — even tobacco giant Altria, the parent company of Richmond-based Philip Morris — support the legislation.

How incredibly naive does one have to be for Philip Morris’ support of a tobacco bill not to raise a few red flags? The proposed regulations sound reasonable as The Post describes them, but their unintended consequences would be deadly:

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.

The Post misleadingly describes this as a consumer safety bill, comparing unregulated cigarettes to recent peanut contamination. But the perverse effect of FDA oversight would be that consumers would be even less informed than they are now, and demonstrably safer cigarettes could be kept off the market if regulators believe they would induce consumers to smoke more frequently. In short, the bill empowers the FDA to decide that it’s better for current smokers to die than for new smokers to enjoy a safer alternative. Call that what you like, but it isn’t consumer protection.

Freshly minted bias