Yesterday two bipartisan pairs–Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) in the Senate, Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in the House–introduced a new bill to give the FDA authority over tobacco products. Last year a similar proposal fell apart when the anti-smoking crowd turned against it. This time around, the legislation has support not only from Philip Morris, the country's biggest cigarette manufacturer, but from the four leading anti-smoking groups: the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The full text of the bill, known as the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, is not available yet. But with backing (and a name) like that, it can't be good.
According to an analysis circulated by Philip Morris, the bill would codify the restrictions on advertising and promotion the FDA tried to unilaterally impose in 1996 (including a ban on pictures in tobacco ads that appear in publications seen by substantial numbers of minors). It would also ban fruit and spice flavors; require premarket approval for new tobacco products; mandate bigger, scarier warning labels; allow comparative risk statements only with FDA approval; and give the FDA the authority to demand reductions in nicotine and other tobacco components. Like last year's bill, it instructs the FDA to consider the impact of a new product or new product information on "the population as a whole" as well as individual consumers, meaning that indisputably safer products still could be rejected, and demonstrably true information censored, based on a dubious collectivist calculus.