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Opposition in search of a rationale: the case for Food and Drug Administration regulation
  1. M L Myers
  1. Correspondence to:
 Matthew L Myers

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For more than a decade, public health leaders have called for government regulation of tobacco products. The consensus in support of government regulation recognised that, absent strong new governmental authority, the tobacco industry would continue to do the following: pursue marketing practices that are deceptive, have a negative impact on children and discourage quitting; withhold information vital to public health scientists; secretly manipulate their products in ways that make them more dangerous and more addictive; market products that the public perceives to be less hazardous while having no incentive to market products that, in fact, deliver fewer toxins; and undermine prevention efforts by using unsubstantiated claims, such as “light” or “low tar”, to keep people smoking.

To address these concerns, in May 2004 long time public health champions Senators Edward Kennedy and Mike DeWine and Congressman Henry Waxman introduced in the US Congress legislation granting the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sweeping regulatory authority over both new and existing tobacco products and their marketing. This legislation is consistent with or stronger than the regulatory principles established by a consensus of American public health groups as well as the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Tobacco Product Regulation, and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.


The legislation was endorsed by former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, former Surgeon General C Everett Koop, 60 national organisations including the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association, …

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  • * Some critics have expressed concern that this legislation will eliminate the litigation threat to tobacco companies. Section 917(b) states specifically that the Bill does not modify the liability of a tobacco company. More importantly, if the legislation resulted in less wrongdoing by tobacco companies and, therefore, gave consumers less of a reason to sue them while saving lives, the net impact would be positive.