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Regulating Cigarettes, at Last

Posted on Aug 13, 2008

By Marie Cocco

    Congress is known for leaving business unfinished, but rarely is a task left undone for more than four decades.

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    The tobacco industry is a prolific donor of campaign funds and a lobbying titan. So the federal government has left it mostly alone since the 1964 surgeon general’s report declared that cigarette smoking causes disease and death.

    “This is the only consumer product that, when used as intended, kills people,” says Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “And it is unregulated.”

    Until, one can hope, right now.

    Before departing for its August break, the House of Representatives passed the first-ever comprehensive tobacco regulation bill. It gives the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco by, among other things, cracking down on marketing to children, mandating dramatically stronger health warnings on every pack, and requiring that the warnings be larger than they are now. Most significantly, the government would ban use of words such as light and mild that are meant to fool smokers into thinking there is such a thing as a safe, or safer, cigarette. It would prohibit sweet flavorings now used to make smoking seem palatable, though it wouldn’t go far enough in reducing the use of menthol flavors, favored among African-American smokers.


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    And for the first time, tobacco companies would have to disclose to the government just what is in cigarettes. Right now, Myers says, there are more than 60 known cancer-causing agents in cigarettes, but most information on them is held privately by the industry. “The FDA doesn’t even know what is in there,” he says. The legislation, Myers believes, “takes the decisions about what might be in cigarettes away from the tobacco industry ... and turns them over to the scientists.”

    The politics of this belated action are notable and, it must be said, should give pause to any American who thinks that Congress, or “Washington,” can never, ever achieve anything of genuine significance.

    Finally, a bipartisan—and veto-proof—majority of House members voted to support public health rather than suck up to Big Tobacco. In the Senate, supporters of the measure believe they have enough votes to survive a veto and perhaps even a threatened filibuster. Both presidential contenders are co-sponsors of the Senate bill. 

    Which leaves the Bush administration isolated. The White House has said that if the legislation reaches the desk of President Bush, his advisers would recommend a veto.

    The reasoning is positively Orwellian. “FDA regulates drugs and devices by approving products after weighing the benefits against the risks of a product,” the White House policy statement on the bill says. “In contrast, there is no such thing as a cigarette in which the benefits outweigh the risks. The use of tobacco products is inherently unsafe.”

    Taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean that the government should ban cigarettes, not stop at merely regulating them. The only other translation possible is that the White House has concluded cigarettes are so dangerous the government should do nothing about them.

    You might recognize this as the sort of doublespeak the industry itself mastered long ago. Cigarettes are an adult pleasure, it insists—while systematically marketing them in ways that appeal to adolescents, the group most likely to take up smoking and become hooked. Cigarette smoking is a choice, not an addiction. Yeah, right. Most Americans stopped believing this nonsense years ago. Now it seems that Congress has finally caught up with public sentiment.

    Besides Bush, the one obstacle to enactment of this necessary measure is time. In this election year, the Senate has few days left to work before leaving town once again to campaign. The rules of the chamber not only allow for a filibuster but also for linkage to a much more controversial bill—offshore oil drilling, anyone?  So a handful of opponents could still impede action. These are the kinds of smokescreens that have been used to shield tobacco in the past: The first effort at legislation along these lines was introduced more than two decades ago.

    With 400,000 deaths each year and more than four decades after we were told this would be tobacco’s effect, it is awfully hard to see how congressional delay and political denial should still carry the day.
    Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)
    © 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

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By Green Smoke Reviews, March 1, 2011 at 10:34 pm Link to this comment

Rising prices will not eliminate that habit for most. It will mean that children will be neglected, homes will be without food and so on. This is an addiction and must be treated us such. I read last week that in Australia a packet of cigarettes is now over $25.00. Yeah it might have some people thinking, but mostly people will continue to smoke and may even buy illegal.

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By samosamo, August 15, 2008 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment

Just don’t let them smoke any and every where. And raise the price to $10 a pack to be increase $1 every year.

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By b8akaratn, August 15, 2008 at 10:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I see this as a strike against Big Tobacco but a win FOR Big Healthcare & taxes overall.  People are living longer, which means they’ll probably be working longer (and also raising the age for retirement & social security collection)... which means we all get to pay taxes longer.  And with all that, HMO’s don’t want to have to pay for us being sickly as we get older or lose money on covering expensive cancer treatments.  So the legislation doesn’t give a crap about us as citizens, it’s all about sustaining the coffers.

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By GW=MCHammered, August 15, 2008 at 9:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Always been true:

“The politics of this belated action are notable and, it must be said, should give pause to any American who thinks that Congress, or “Washington,” can never, ever achieve anything of genuine significance.”

Read ‘in the news’ topics from twenty-five years ago and they are the same as today, terrorism in them Middle East, health care woes, funding failing education. Other than incredible expense to the taxpayer, what do Congress and the other branches ever achieve of genuine significance? It’s time to hold them all accountable or rethink government. We The People can no longer afford their vanity. Maybe a Capitol Hill job requirement should include ... smoking.

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By John William Reitter, August 15, 2008 at 6:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I was a smoker, and an idiot…have seen friends and relatives die from cancer. But education and prevention, not just Government regulation, is the way to go. Same way with recreational drugs and alcohol. Big Brother cannot solve all our problems but we are a nation under laws, not gods, and we need some mimimal regulation to safeguard others. Especially children, employees, elderly and handicapped. As to harming ourselves, no one can stop us; that is why education is the key.

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By Purple Girl, August 15, 2008 at 5:08 am Link to this comment

Granted I do not want tabhacco co’s to market to kids- but I, as a Free Adult WANT to have a choice about whether I choose to smoke or Not- same as being able to have an abortion or a Drink!
Seems the Anti tabacco coalition has a lot in common with the so called ‘Pro Lifers’. Neihter seem to be musch interested in the other underlying issue which effect people- Only their target fanatizism.
There is not one smoker In stead of focusing on Air pollution, industrial environemntla conditions, Radon, Carbon dioxide leaks they focus their energy on a Choice issue. As a Smoker- who is aware of all the stop smoking methods available- I have CHOSEN to continue smoking BECAUSE I ENJOY SMOKING!
Same type of mind se t goes with ‘Pro lifers’- focusing on abortion instead of working to eliminate Unwanted pregancies, quality of life AFTER birth…
Anti smoking legislation has already kicked us in to the ‘back allies’- when will you come into our homes too?
If others have the right to kill themselves with alcohol, with McDonalds, bungy jumping, skydivingAuto racing…..Why can I not have a damn cigarette. alos Not smokers don’t live long enough to tax the Social security system , Medicare or long term care ...maybe we should be thanked to saving the kids the cost of caring for us for 20 because we suffer from Alzheimers- but our hearts and lungs refuse to stop ( the way my grandmother suffered & died).One smoking grandfather died of cancer within a year at 65, an smoking uncle within weeks at 60, my ohter smoking grandad & Dad both had massive heart attacks.My Non smoking grandmother lingered for years after a stroke, the other Alzheimers. Not only do I enjoy smoking -I’m fucking hedging My bet!
so your CRUSADE is just as much a facist type cause as those who want to take away a womens right to manage her own reproductive freedoms.GEt Out of MY Body!!

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By The Kerrigan, August 15, 2008 at 3:23 am Link to this comment
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And Jesus said: “Let those that know best speak for all men, for men are foolish and do not know what they do while they do it. Let those who call themselves my followers take up the path to save all mankind from itself! Speak lie upon lie to others and tell them to speak them as well. Prove not your words for they cannot be proven as naught but lies, so stand and shout in defiance at those who would dare question you. Turn not the other cheek nor give any man the slightest allowance of free will for this is not what your Father wishes for men. Reach into their highest and smallest temples and fill their coffers so that they follow your will. Turn not the other cheek but bash those who dare not to follow your ways. Seek them in their work places and impose ideas that give them not work so that their families must follow thy will or die of hunger in the streets. Force thy cities to impose the law of thy will and imprison those who would do as you do not like. Speak ill of the offenders of your will and preach of only your caring of people and how, in your footsteps will all of man someday stand in shining, perfect health. Turn thy back on the harlot, the offensive, the unlearned, the carefree, and those who choose to have wills of their own, for they are an offense to Thee and will not see your Greatness and bow to you and sing hosannahs to the glory of Your Goodness and Perfection. Smite those who offend thee from thy perfect and loving care, and do all you can in your good name and works to stone from the world those who will not bow to your words and call them lies.

“Only in these ways shall you see the truth of God and raise thyself above Him and be the glory of Mankind, for you are greater than God! The world will bow to thy will and thy will alone, and you will live in Glory and Power and Unassailable Perfection forever and ever, Amen.”

No. Smokers do NOT want to quit.
No. You have no right to ban smoking anywhere.
No. All the “evidence” about second-hand smoke is not true, and every test, commission to study the absurdity of every claim has NEVER been offered up for critisism, agendaless testing or scrutiny and is word-of-mouth ONLY.

Did everyone miss it?... The Surgeon General was forced from office because of his over-blown, factless ranting about “second-hand smoke”. It does NOT go through glass. You will NOT get cancer from merely breathing the smell of cigarettes, or even inhaling second-hand smoke. No, chidren raised in smoke-filled environments are no more prone to anything than children raised in “clean” environments. The G.A.O. found that Bush’s Baby of a Surgeon General based every, single thing he said on the fact that Christian-based armies threw tons of money at him and he kept it while spouting what they and Anti-Smoking groups (who ALSO gave him tons of money to pocket) wanted him to say. He was given the choice of quietly slipping out of office (which he did) or being publiclly thrown out. Wow. And he got to keep all the bribes! Imagine that.

Well, raise yourselves up highter than anyone. The fall ain’t so bad, but the landing’s a bitch.

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By reason, August 14, 2008 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment

Living is hazardous to our health! Our society’s values are a contradiction in so many areas it is hard to have faith in most anything.
Smoking is not something I would recommend anyone to start but following the same logic I could say the same things about most of fast food, processed food, driving on our highways, voting for Bush and Cheney, etc.
The quality of life in the U.S. is not what it could or should be given we are supposed to be one of the most advanced nations in the world.
I will admit, I am a smoker and though I really wish I had never started, I don’t believe I will die before “my time” nor do I think that smoking alone is a major cause of cancer. I have known so many people who died of cancer who never smoked “if they did it was long ago” yet they died of different cancers. I have read about cancer and what is believed to be its primary causes; I did not find any solid evidence of tobacco being a primary cause. What I did find was that factors such as stress, inadequate diet, regions that have sustained air pollution and heredity are the most probable causes. (The more you read about cancer, the more you will realize how little doctors really know). Common sense and practicing moderation can beneficially influence our overall health and if not prolong our lives; at least improve the quality of it. There are many things in life that threaten both the quality and the duration on our lives but to say that tobacco is the all consuming “boogey man” that it is portended to be is beyond reason.
Have you ever asked yourself; why governments that spend billions on biological weapons that can destroy human life on a scale that makes the bubonic plague look like a minor cold would care about people smoking tobacco?
Smoking is an addictive, expensive and dirty habit, and I would encourage anyone who doesn’t smoke not to start, but to say that smoking is generally the major cause of cancer or the primary cause of respiratory illness is not supported by science.

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By yellowbird2525, August 14, 2008 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment

lets see: the Indians just got screwed over YET AGAIN by the Fed Gov: ta da! Oh, thats right: they were “so stupid” they could not keep track of their money so the Gov was going to do it for them:; they “won” a settlement of $455m which I am sure the Good Ol Boys known as Supreme Court will step in & say hey hey hey that’s to much! when in reality they are owed billions of $; keeping them in object poverty; Indians have the RIGHT to sell tobacco; they have their own stamps; and lo & behold: ta da! NOW the Gov who ignored the cries for their $ for years are going to “regulate” tobacco; BIG SURPRISE! IF YOU EVER HAD A THOUGHT the US Gov was to be trusted; you had best CHANGE your thinking! and if you really want to weep go to; bill moyers journal for capital crimes; against everyone decent & innocent; and nothing good to be said for Indians;

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By Zack, August 14, 2008 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

The idea that more legislation is necessary to combat smoking is comical.  Unless you have been living in a cave for the past 50 years you already know that smoking is extremely harmful to your health.  If you still don’t realize this you are obviously an idiot or have decided that you enjoy smoking enough that you don’t mind the health risks.  I also think that anyone who smokes should not expect the federal government to pay for your health problems caused by smoking.  In a free society people are allowed to do things that are dangerous if they do not put others at substantial risks.

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By Gmonst, August 14, 2008 at 9:29 am Link to this comment

I don’t think this is likely to have much of an impact.  People already know smoking is addictive and will give you cancer.  Even the most naive know of tobaccos harms.  Bigger warnings will do nothing.  Perhaps a listing of ingredients on the package may do something, but most likely it will just increase the sale of additive free tobacco like american spirits. Its seems like most miss that the danger of tobacco is a large part of its appeal to youth.  It is kind of a flaunting of one’s lack of worry about death.  A laughing in the face of consequences, a symbol to others that one is cool enough to not worry about the future.  By the time it stops being cool, they are addicted and either fight through that and quit or keep on smoking in the habit.  The one constant is they all know its harmful.  No one is deluded.  I personally think that we worry too much about people harming themselves with their habits.  It always comes across to me as pretentious governance when they try to keep people from harming themselves.  Smokers aren’t stupid, they can read the warning labels already on cigarettes, they know it is harmful, they have seen the voice box guy singing, they have heard the news.  Give them the information and let them decide for themselves.  An all out ban on cigarettes would create an epic black market.  No one would be forced to quit, they would just have to pay three times as much and have no warning labels or oversight of any kind.

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By Louise, August 14, 2008 at 9:19 am Link to this comment

How many cancer causing agents are in depleted uranium?

And how about Aspartame? You know that great little [deadly] drug that’s in your kids vitamins.

And what about the [fillers] they put in your kids vaccinations, like that poison Mercury or Thimerosal?

And what about the MSG [albeit sometimes with a different name] that’s added to the majority of prepared foods mom buys for the kids to snack on between meals. The drug that makes you always feel hungry.

And while we’re on the subject of stuff that makes you sick, how about the preservatives and pesticides in and on those fresh [well at least fresh when they were picked a few weeks back] veggies and fruits that came from across the world right to your table.

Gee whiz, we now have seed with built in fertilizer and pesticide. Anybody know how much of that stuff comes through in the plant that comes from that seed?

I use to buy my milk from the dairy farmer down the road. And I knew if the cow’s product wasn’t kept cold and consumed within a day or two it could start to go bad. Today I can buy a carton of milk, or cream and right there on the side is a date stamped, guaranteeing that product will be “fresh” for two weeks. [sometimes longer] How do they do that? Well I’ll bet it’s got little to do with the cow. And everything to do with some mega-drug corporation that adds drugs to the cow’s milk. Or the cows feed.

So, while smoking can and probably will cause health problems, it’s no longer number one and certainly does not need to go away!

What! How can I say such a thing?

Simple really. If everybody who smokes quit tomorrow, and stayed quit, by this time next month cities and counties and states allover the country would be facing a shortfall of revenue that might just be the straw that broke the camels back!

How many billions of dollars of revenue would disappear if everybody quit smoking?

Smoking means big bucks for the tax coffers, and nobody, repeat NOBODY wants that to go away!

So here we have the classic example of a double standard. The sin tax. Followed by the classic example of the “sinners” being punished with even more stringent controls, and costs, while they pay that huge tax.

But hey, going after tobacco company’s is the right thing to do. Right? Better than going after the guys who give us depleted uranium. [which congress will NEVER do] Or the mega-corporations that make all those lovely drugs we get in our food and our vitamins and our kids shots and all the other deadly stuff we daily ingest to keep corporate America strong and vibrant. Eh?

I mean, in the grand scheme of things, which is more important, keeping corporate America healthy, or your kids? Maybe that’s why we see a million drugs advertised everywhere we look. Drugs to heal everything, even diseases that didn’t exist before the drug was created!

So never fear folks. Congress, worrying about our health, is finally taking action against that naughty tobacco lobby. And like everything congress finally gets around to doing, there is a bright side. Maybe the money people spend on tobacco products can now be diverted to consuming legal drugs! You’ll still get sick, [maybe sicker] but it wont be quite so painful. Or at least you wont know it is.

Meanwhile congress has failed to put controls on the runaway futures speculation on Wall Street that daily blesses us with runaway costs in oil and housing and that wonderful war machine. And congress has failed to put the brakes on an administration that has tortured and killed and completely trashed our Constitution. But hey ... they did something about tobacco.

Woo-Hoo and Ye-Haw!

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By napoleon, August 14, 2008 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cigarettes are harmful to health, that being said, criminalizing them will just add millions of law abiding citizens into criminals further enabling the intrusive police state.  Regulating cigarettes is also less effective than many would believe.  It was the regulaters who made tobacco companies lower tar and nic, 2 random items among 1,000’s of ingredients, emiisions and constituents in cigarettes leading to the labels of “lights, Mild etc… which now are to be removed by law.

This regulation did lead people to believe that “Lights” are safer even though the risk is the same as in full flavour cigarettes.  Furthermore “Lights” actually caused people to smoke more to get their nicotine; further profitting tobacco companies.  Another “unintended” consequence of regulation was the advertising ban, while seeming great it only increased tobacco companies profits as they saved all those billions they use to spend, and since it was applied to all tobacco companies, they reaped a huge windfall and it kept market shares as is ie. it served the interest of big tobacco effectively protecting their market share from any new entrants.

That being said; Tobacco is harmful, if you want to fight the harms of smoking start with educational campaigns aimed at children in schools, fund health programs to help people quit smoking, and provide better health care to sufferers of smoking related illnesses and fund it all through increasing the Corporate profits of tobacco companies by a further 50% and shareholder dividends by another 50% as opposed to increasing the sales tax which tobacco companies only pass on to the consumer with little effect on their bottom line (but increases tobacco smuggling and tobacco crime significantly…)

I do agree however with ingredients disclosure but after that let the adult consumers decide.


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By warhater2, August 14, 2008 at 8:51 am Link to this comment

One can compare the Prohibition of alcohol and its outcome with crime and black marketeering that resulted from the Prohibition laws of 1920 thru 1933, to a prohibition on cigarettes and the criminal activities that may result from another such law. However there is one big difference between a ban on cigarettes and a ban on alcohol. The difference is that most people want to quit smoking and except for the availability of cigarettes they could quit. Most people do not wish to go through therapy and would prefer to end their addiction in the quite of their own lives while they curse the availability of cigarettes as the nemesis that thwarts them from doing so. I know I do.

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By grampy9134, August 14, 2008 at 8:35 am Link to this comment

nicely put, yellowbird!

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By punkdudeus, August 14, 2008 at 1:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, with that said, I don’t think tobacco should be made illegal.  We’ve seen the tragedy of US drug prohibition and the other idiocy of it, a widely abuse drug like tobacco will just get more people using it.

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By yellowbird2525, August 14, 2008 at 12:41 am Link to this comment

For years it was said that the ADDITIVES put into the “big” companies cigarettes were what caused cancer; Gov replied: you can’t prove that; MIGHT want to check out WHAT is in your toothpaste, shampoos, deoderants, laundry soaps, cleaning supplies, fragrances, soaps, cosmetics, etc: ALL KNOWN CANCER CAUSING & WORSE toxins: many KNOWN & supposedly “banned”; talk about POISONING! and don’t please forget the tsunami of formaldehyde deliberately added to carpeting, & baby shampoos, & every possible conceivable thing on the planet to make you ill & have to go to the Drs to get more $ for the shareholders there; 600,000 times more than cost is normal prescriptions; yep, gotta love that our Gov working right along for PROFITS for shareholders poison us in every possible conceivable way; while “claiming” protecting us huh.

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