TOBACCO INDUSTRY SPIN

How would you feel if a consortium of armed robbers was to call for decriminalization of robbery? It's a loopy idea, but they might claim that since police are so busy trying to catch other criminals, they should not be burdened with chasing robbers.

How would you feel if a consortium of armed robbers was to call for decriminalization of robbery? It’s a loopy idea, but they might claim that since police are so busy trying to catch other criminals, they should not be burdened with chasing robbers.

Believe it or not, Reynolds tobacco is making just such a loopy argument, Trying to keep the Food and Drug Administration from regulating smokes. Reynolds – the maker of such addictive brands as Camel – has been running TV ads against a bipartisan bill in Congress that directs FDA to start regulating tobacco as the dangerous drug that it is.

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The bill, co-sponsored by a majority of congress members and backed by dozens of health groups, targets the industry’s despicable efforts to market nicotine to children, banning such tactics as offering candy-flavored cigarettes or labeling cigarettes as “light.” Reynolds’ ads depict a guy doing the old Vaudevillian comedy schtick of trying to keep several plates spinning in the air at once. The spinner becomes increasingly frantic, for he clearly has more plates than he can handle. The oh-so-subtle message is that the FDA – like the hapless comic – is overwhelmed with simply trying to assure the safety of our foods and medicines, so, gosh, let’s not burden these stressed public servants with the “unnecessary” task of regulating nicotine products.

Such a show of concern for federal workers by this industry giant might be touching, except that the bill specifically provides new staff for the FDA to do this new job, creating a center for tobacco regulation. How to pay for the additional overseers? By putting a fee on the tobacco pushers. Funny that Reynolds’ ad doesn’t mention this neat solution to the plate-spinning problem.

To keep up with the industry’s self-serving spin, contact the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids: 202.296.5469.

“Reynolds Ads Say Tobacco Oversight Is Burden F.D.A. Doesn’t Need,” New York Times, April 2, 2008.

“Bill to Regulate Tobacco as a Drug Is Approved by a House Committee,” New York Times, April 3, 2008.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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