Tobacco Buyout is Tied to Tobacco Bailout

in Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine
August 9th, 2004

Contact: Gina M. Digravio, 617-638-8491 | gina.digravio@bmc.org
Contact: Kristen Perfetuo, 617-638-8491 | kristen.perfetuo@bmc.org

(Boston) – A new report, being released publicly for the first time today, concludes that FDA tobacco legislation being championed by public health groups would actually be detrimental to the public’s health, and would instead represent a bailout of unprecedented proportions for Philip Morris, the country’s largest cigarette manufacturer. The 34-page report, produced by Michael Siegel, MD, MPH, an associate professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, provides the first detailed analysis of the specific provisions of Senate Amendment 3563, concluding that “it is clear that the bill fails to protect the public’s health in any substantial way, and that it would be detrimental to the public’s health in a number of ways.”

According to Siegel, “The findings of this report suggest that the major public health groups supporting this legislation – the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association – have essentially joined with Philip Morris in promoting a bill that will help to institutionalize the lung cancer epidemic in our society.

“The simple fact that Philip Morris supports this legislation should be enough to tell the public and especially, public health organizations, that this is bad legislation,” he added. “My analysis demonstrates that this legislation will likely bring efforts to reduce tobacco use in our nation to a nearly complete halt. It is a shame and a public health tragedy that the major national health organizations have decided to join Philip Morris in promoting this tobacco industry bailout.”

The major flaws of the FDA legislation pointed out in Siegel’s report include:

• The bill stringently regulates new products and reduced risk products, but essentially allows existing, high-risk products to continue killing hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.

• The bill completely ties the hands of the FDA in terms of taking any meaningful action to regulate cigarettes, and in the process, institutionalizes tobacco and addiction to tobacco products in our society.

• Tobacco companies will benefit from this bill because they will be able to use the fact of being regulated by the FDA to achieve improved public opinion, reduce public perception of the inherent risks of smoking, and virtually gain complete protection from existing and future lawsuits.

• There is strong evidence that the bill will result in increased, not decreased deaths as claimed by the health groups. The bill will make it virtually impossible to develop and market less hazardous tobacco products and allow reduced exposure products to essentially be falsely marketed as reduced risk products, deceiving the public into thinking that these products are actually safer when no such evidence exists.

A number of public health organizations and prominent practitioners in the tobacco control movement, including Smoke-Free Pennsylvania and Maryland GASP, have taken a position opposing this legislation, and for the first time since the aborted global tobacco settlement proposal of 1997, the tobacco control community has become sharply divided.

The FDA tobacco legislation was adopted, along with a tobacco buyout for farmers, by the Senate on July 15, 2004 as an amendment to the corporate tax bill (also known as the FSC/ETI bill or the JOBS Act).

Because the House version of the bill does not contain FDA regulation of tobacco, the bill will be taken up by a Conference Committee after Congress returns from summer recess after Labor Day.

An associate professor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department at the Boston University School of Public Health, Siegel is a physician trained in preventive medicine and public health. He has been a tobacco control researcher for the past 19 years and has published extensively in the peer-reviewed literature about tobacco policy issues.

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