Tobacco

Cigarette Gag

Smokes and speech

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For years anti-smoking members of Congress have sought to give the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products. Opponents worry that consumers will interpret FDA regulation as an official stamp of approval, signaling that cigarettes are safe to consume, or at least safer than they used to be. In April the House of Representatives passed a bill that addresses this concern through censorship.

The legislation includes a provision barring manufacturers from making "any statement directed to consumers through the media or through the label, labeling, or advertising that would reasonably be expected to result in consumers believing that the product is regulated, inspected or approved by the Food and Drug Administration." So if this law is enacted, the FDA will be regulating cigarettes, but manufacturers won't be allowed to say the FDA is regulating cigarettes, because (as the bill says elsewhere) "consumers are likely to be confused and misled" if they know the FDA is regulating cigarettes. On its face, this provision means that an R.J. Reynolds executive who mentions FDA regulation during an appearance on CNBC would thereby commit a "prohibited act" under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, an offense punishable by up to a year in jail.