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Despite great strides by the tobacco control movement in recent years, both in reducing the percentage of smokers and in dramatically increasing the number of smoke-free workplaces and public places throughout the world, advocates are understandably frustrated that, 45 years after the 1964 US Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, millions of people continue to die each year from smoking-related diseases worldwide. Some advocates have concluded that it is finally time to consider the nuclear option—a prohibition on the manufacture and sale of cigarettes. While we all share the frustration, in the United States, at least, such a move towards prohibition is misguided, for both political and practical reasons.
Prohibition should be rejected in the US primarily because is politically unfeasible. It is simply inconceivable that the same Congress that could not write a bill giving regulatory authority over tobacco to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) without tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris’s permission, and then could not pass sensible amendments to the bill when they were opposed by Philip Morris, would even entertain a bill for prohibition, much less enact such a measure. Even the most ardent congressional friends of tobacco control would not spend their political capital on …
Competing interests: Peter Hanauer is a co-founder and past president of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) and a co-author of “The Cigarette Papers.” Following a career as a law book editor, he joined the staff of the ANR Foundation, where he currently analyses tobacco control legislation for the ANR Foundation’s US Tobacco Control Laws Database.
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