'One of the Worst Public Health Laws Ever Conceived'

As the Senate continues to debate a bill that would let the FDA regulate tobacco products, the American Enterprise Institute's John Calfee explains how it impedes competition between cigarettes and safer alternatives:

Congress is poised to pass one of the worst public health laws ever conceived....

Manufacturers would have to demonstrate that their products are not merely safer than some of the existing alternatives. They would have to demonstrate that once the products enter the market, they would not have undesirable second-order effects such as encouraging smokers to switch instead of quit, or encouraging non-smokers to start who otherwise would not have started.

Meeting this kind of standard would be extraordinarily difficult; it is nearly a recipe to discourage the development of almost any new product no matter how much safer it would be than what smokers now use. It moves the FDA far beyond the contours of drug regulation. Imagine that a dramatically effective new HIV drug could not be approved until the manufacturer demonstrated that the entry of the drug would not tempt some people into unsafe sex because they knew a better treatment could be used if worse came to worse. Suppose a better diabetes drug was kept on the sidelines while the manufacturer figured out how to show that the availability of the drug would not encourage obesity by discouraging weight loss and the like. No one wants the FDA to do that for drugs because we want better drugs, and we are willing to let consumers make their own decisions about how to revamp their lives accordingly. The imposition of this bizarre standard for new tobacco products reveals an intention to largely dispense with the task of reducing tobacco harm while demeaning the choices of smokers and potential smokers....

The same hostility to harm reduction infuses HR 1256's provisions on marketing....The most important information—about the product's risks and why it might be safer than something else—would be hemmed in by requirements of unknown rigor....There would be another beyond-FDA-drug-regulation requirement to demonstrate that if smokers are told about a safer product, they will not react by failing to quit smoking and so on. Again, one wonders about how the pharmaceutical market would work if heart drug manufacturers had to prove whether telling consumers how to reduce the risk of heart attacks would adversely affect their lifestyle choices about diet and exercise.

I discuss these and other problems with the Philip Morris Protection and Competition Control Act  Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which has been passed by the House and endorsed by President Obama, here, herehere, and here. As I said in a 2008 column, the central problem with this bill is that it seeks to prevent consumption rather than protect consumers, whose desires it aims to frustrate rather than satisfy.

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  • libtdem||

    Are cloves still outlawed in the most recent version, or did they remove that?

  • Steven||

    Isn't the ultimate goal to get smokers to quit? Why would we wish to keep them hooked on nicotine thru some alternative? Also, couldn't these devices be addictive?

  • ||

    Wow, lots of trolls today.

    Steven.
    Jane.
    Frederick.

    How many of you are Congressional staffers with an agenda? We're on to you, bitches!

  • ||

    libtdem,

    Yes, cloves are still banned in the latest version. Indonesia is loudly protesting the ban, as they grow cloves, and threatening to take it to the WTO. But banning cloves is one of Ted Kennedy's priorities.

  • libertarian democrat||

    There is no legitimate reason to ban clove cigarettes over regular cigarettes. Blatant industry protection.

  • ||

    The imposition of this bizarre standard for new tobacco products reveals an intention to largely dispense with the task of reducing tobacco harm while demeaning the choices of smokers and potential smokers....



    The author is making the erroneous assumption that what drives the anti-tobacco zealots is concern for other peoples health.

    This is every bit as much egregious misdirection as the right wing claiming that they had legitimate public health concerns about HPV vaccine (Oh noes! It would lead people to engage in unsafe sex).

    Fuck puritans of all stripes.
    Fuck the FDA and the statists that support its continued existence as anything more than a recommending body. I could live with an FDA seal of approval, I chafe at FDA prohibitions.

  • Rhywun||

    Fuck puritans of all stripes.

    About sums it up. This is a transparent ploy to eventually impose prohibition, unless Philip Morris knows something we don't know.

  • ||

    This is every bit as much egregious misdirection as the right wing claiming that they had legitimate public health concerns about HPV vaccine (Oh noes! It would lead people to engage in unsafe sex).



    There is a legitimate concern about making HPV a mandatory vaccine, simply because of it being mandatory. The normal public health reasons for making vaccines mandatory depend generally on the negative externalities of easily communicable diseases. It is difficult to impossible to avoid breathing the same air as someone. The more easily communicable the disease, the greater the need for coercive action.

    With HPV, the reasoning is at its weakest, and hence the argument that making vaccinations mandatory is a form of corporate welfare for the company that manufacturers it is correspondingly strongest. Since sex is broadly voluntary and generally avoidable with strangers, the incentives for people to get vaccinated should be roughly aligned correctly.

    It is also undoubtedly an economic fact that, yes, it would lead people to engage in more sex, and more unprotected sex, than otherwise if you one remove one particular risk. It is equally unquestioned by economists and others who have studied the issue that, e.g., legal abortion has led to somewhat more unwanted pregnancies, though not more unwanted births. The latter is important-- while there always is the second-order effect, in most cases it is generally not strong enough to outweigh the first order effect (though it can be.)

  • ||

    "'One of the Worst Public Health Laws Ever Conceived'"

    Oh, come on now. I'm sure there are much worse public health laws yet to come from the Obamacy. This is just the warm-up act.

  • Michael P.||

    I discuss these and other problems with the Philip Morris Protection and Competition Control Act...




    The other day I read an (unsigned!) editorial in the Chicago Tribune that was enthusiastically advocating this bill. Their supporting argument, and I absolutely shit you not, was basically, "See? Even Altria is in favor of it! That means it has to be good!"

  • Lost||

    Yawn...tell me something I don't know. FDA wants to control all aspects of medication, food health. Chock it up to good ol' draconian times.

    I'm not mad anymore.

    I just don't care.

  • ||

    John Thacker,

    Nice try. Your do realize that your reasoning leads to the conclusion that a patented HIV vaccine should not be mandatory, right?

  • ||

    Yet another example of the anti drug nazis making perfect the enemy of better.

  • ||

    Your do realize that your reasoning leads to the conclusion that a patented HIV vaccine should not be mandatory, right?



    Not speaking for anyone else, but yeah that follows.

    You do understand the concept of liberty, don't you?

    Otherwise what's next, mandatory colonoscopy?

  • Sparky||

    First off. I am webmaster of a site that reviews so called "electronic cigarettes." These devices produce a nicotine mist devoid of most carcinogens and may be an example of what John Calfee was talking about.

    IF evidence suggests that electronic cigarettes are 99.9% safe then they would have the "undesirable second-order effects such as encouraging smokers to switch instead of quit"

    This is exactly what some electronic cigarette manufacturers encourage consumers to do however, the FDA tried to detain shipments to the U.S. and had it overturned in federal court:

    http://www.electroniccigarette.....rst-round/

    A full trial is pending..

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