Cigarette smokers with bohemian pretensions can breathe a fragrant, spicy sigh of relief: The bill that would authorize the FDA to regulate tobacco products, which originally prohibited all cigarette flavors except tobacco and menthol (ostensibly to help repel underage smokers), now makes an exception for cloves as well. The change supposedly was prompted by complaints from the Indonesian government, which said banning imports of clove cigarettes while permitting the sale of domestically produced menthol brands would violate America's free trade commitments. Another factor may have been Philip Morris's recent introduction of clove-flavored Marlboros in Indonesia. Although Philip Morris, the only tobacco company that supports the FDA bill, says it "has no plans" to sell clove cigarettes in the U.S., it hardly seems a coincidence that the two cigarette flavors permitted by the bill are ones it uses, while the banned flavors (which include vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, and orange) are used by its competitors.
Anti-smoking activist Michael Siegel reports an even funnier change to the bill: Tobacco companies would be forbidden to tell their customers that cigarettes are regulated by the FDA, lest the public mistakenly infer that cigarettes are safe. The bill's sponsors explain why it's necessary to stop cigarette makers from making statements that are indisputably true:
If manufacturers are permitted to state or imply in communications directed to consumers that a tobacco product is approved or inspected by the Food and Drug Administration or complies with Food and Drug Administration standards, consumers are likely to be confused and misled. Such a statement could result in consumers being misled into believing that the product is endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration for use or in consumers being misled about the harmfulness of the product because of such regulation, inspection, approval, or compliance.
Siegel, who has long opposed the bill in large part because he thinks it would have precisely this misleading effect, comments:
Apparently, the only way this legislation will work is if we trick people into thinking that the FDA does not regulate cigarettes….
What kind of cockamamie regulatory scheme depends upon the public not knowing about that scheme in order to avoid severe public health consequences?
How sensible can a regulatory approach be if we need to hide from the public the very fact that the regulatory scheme is in place?…
That is how foolish this legislation is. So foolish that we need to infringe upon the companies' First Amendment rights in order to make sure that the public doesn't catch wind that the legislation is in place.