Will FDA regulation of tobacco protect public health?
Two Comments in this week's issue discuss the pros and cons of a bill that, if enacted, would give the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over all tobacco products.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act is currently pending Senate and House Committees. Michael Siegel (Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA) and Alan Blum (University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA) argue that the fact that the cigarette company Phillip Morris supports the bill should prompt scepticism about the legislation's public-health benefits.
Among Siegel and Blum's concerns, is their claim that the bill would stringently regulate new and potentially less hazardous tobacco products but the same regulatory standards would not be applied to existing cigarettes.
Siegel and Blum add: "…even if the FDA were to take action, the bill reserves to Congress the right to ban any class of tobacco products. The bill also reserves to Congress the right to reduce nicotine levels to zero. This loophole precludes the FDA itself from making cigarettes non-addictive by virtue of severe reductions in nicotine levels. Most importantly, the bill provides Congress with specific veto power over the FDA's actions."
However, in his Comment, Matthew Myers (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Washington, DC, USA) contradicts Siegel and Blum's claims. He states: "the legislation would grant FDA unprecedented power to require changes in current and future products. The legislation empowers the FDA to require the reduction of nicotine below the levels that are addictive and the reduction or removal of other constituents, including smoke constituents, toxic gases, or any of the known cancer-causing constituents based solely on public-health criteria, without having to overcome the difficult hurdle of first proving that such a proposed action will reduce the risk of disease."
Dr Michael Siegel
Boston University School of Public Health Social and Behavioral Sciences Department
715 Albany Street, TW2, Boston, MA 02118, USA
T) +1 617 638 5167
Matt Myers via Joel Spivak
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, USA
T) 202 296 5469
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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