WhyQuit.com why quit on youth banner
WhyQuit.com  |  About Us  |  WhyQuit on Youth  |  How to Quit

It's Time for the FDA to Take the Next Step:
Ban Cigarettes

Salt Lake City Tribune - Wednesday, July 26, 2000
by Anna Quindlen, Universal Press Syndicate

Imagine that millions of Americans are addicted to a lethal drug. Imagine that the Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly ducked its responsibility by refusing to regulate that drug. And imagine that when the FDA finally does its duty, an appeals court decides that it cannot do so, that the drug is so dangerous that if the FDA regulated it, it would have to be banned.

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of tobacco, where nothing much makes sense except the vast profits, where tobacco company executives slip-slide along the continuum from aggrieved innocence to heartfelt regret without breaking a sweat, and where the only people who seem to be able to shoot straight are the jurors who decide the ubiquitous lawsuits.

The most recent panel to do the right thing handed down a judgment of $145 billion on behalf of sick smokers in the state of Florida, the largest jury damage award in history. Lawyers for the tobacco companies thundered that the award would bankrupt them, yet the stock market scarcely shuddered. Experts said the amount probably would be reduced when cooler judicial heads prevailed.

The jurors -- who gave up two years of their lives, listened to endless witnesses and yet were able to hammer the tobacco companies after deliberating only a few hours - could be forgiven if they felt they had fallen down Alice's rabbit hole into Wonderland, where the Red Queen cries "Off with their heads" but no one is ever executed.

AI Gore, for instance, inspired by the death of his own sister from lung cancer, insisted not long ago that he will do everything he can to keep cigarettes out of the hands of children. But he says he would never outlaw cigarettes because millions of people smoke. Here is a question: How many users mandate legality? What about the estimated 3.6 million chronic cocaine users, or the 2.4 million people who admit to shooting or snorting heroin?

I can almost feel all the smokers out there, tired of standing outside their office buildings puffing in the rain when once they could sit comfortably at their desks, jumping up and down and yelling, "Tobacco is different from illicit drugs!" Because it is legal? Now, there's a circular argument.

A hundred years ago the sale of cigarettes was against the law in 14 states. The Supreme Court, which ruled earlier this year that the FDA did not have the power to regulate tobacco, upheld a Tennessee law forbidding the sale of cigarettes in 1900. The justices agreed with a state court that had concluded, "They possess no virtue but are inherently bad and bad only." At the time, Coca-Cola still contained cocaine, and heroin was in cough syrups. Since then the tables have turned.

Tobacco companies spread political contributions around like weed killer on the lawn in summer, although they've passed from their bipartisan period into an era when they support largely complicit Republicans, who like free enterprise (and soft money) more than they hate emphysema. (George W. Bush responded to a question about the recent megasettlement by bemoaning a litigious nation.) Responsibility-minded Americans accept the argument that individuals have the right to poison themselves, although studies showing that the vast majority of smokers began as minors raise questions about informed consent.

Official tobacco apologists spent years insisting their product did not cause cancer, then that it was not addictive. Now they've done a 180, arguing that since there is no such thing as a safe cigarette, a government agency like the FDA, created to regulate the safety of products, cannot touch them.

If this sounds like having it both ways, that's because it is. Philip Morris masquerades as a corporate Robin Hood by making large contributions to nonprofit organizations, soup kitchens, ballet companies, museums and shelters, being a good citizen with the profits of a product that kills 400,000 people a year. And magazines run articles about the dangers of cigarettes in the same issues that advertise them.

Even tobacco foes have fudged. When David Kessler ran the FDA, he publicly concluded what everyone already knew; that cigarettes are nothing more than a primitive delivery device for nicotine, a dangerous and addictive drug. But the agency never took the obvious next step. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act forbids the sale of any drug that is not safe and effective, and part of the FDA's mandate is to regulate devices. Cigarettes are a device. The drug they deliver is patently unsafe. Ergo, cigarettes should be banned.

That's not going to happen in our lifetime, which is why even a more aggressive FDA refused to take this to the limit. Too many tobacco farmers, too many tobacco addicts; a right to a livelihood, a right to a lifestyle. (Both of these arguments hold for legalizing illicit drugs as well, but never mind.) "Prohibition" is a dirty word in America. But tobacco can in no way be compared to alcohol. Many people can and do drink safely and in moderation, while it is impossible to smoke without some pernicious health effects, and nearly all smokers can be described as addicts. But if cigarettes were outlawed, what to do with all those tobacco junkies? Nicotine clinics providing the patch, strong coffee and hypnotherapy?

Public-service announcements, catchy commercials for kids, settlements with the states to recover health-care costs: The tobacco companies, which once swore they were doing nothing wrong, are now willing to lose some ideological battles to win the war of the profit margin. One Philip Morris executive appearing at a recent conference even told Kessler, whose efforts to restrict sales and advertising aimed at children spawned a battle royal of billable hours, that he welcomed "serious regulation of the tobacco industry at the federal level." Now they tell us. Why shouldn't the Marlboro men play the angles? The public and the polls have provided them with so many angles to play.

Here is the bottom line: Cigarettes are the only legal product that, when used as directed, cause death. The rest is just a puppet show in the oncology wing.

Online source: R.J. Reynolds document library

Online link: http://tobaccodocuments.org/rjr/522870045-0047.html

Historical Note: Thirteen years after this article, even after passage on June 22, 2009 of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to lack the power or authority to ban cigarettes.

WhyQuit's basic "how to quit smoking" video

Watch 200+ additional free video stop smoking lessons

Read our free quitting e-books

Click to learn more about Joel's free e-book before downloading it              Click to learn more about John's free e-book before downloading it.

Read both and watch knowledge destroy quitting anxieties!

Visit WhyQuit and learn more about smart turkey quitting

Learn More About Smart Turkey Quitting

  • WhyQuit.com's coffin bannerWhyQuit.com - WhyQuit is the Internet's oldest forum devoted to the art, science and psychology of cold turkey quitting, the stop smoking method used by the vast majority of all successful long-term ex-smokers. Left to right, WhyQuit is organized under three headings: (1) Motivation, (2) Education and (3) Support.
  • "Never Take Another Puff" - Imagine a free 149 page stop smoking ebook that's registered more than 4 million downloads and was written by a man who has devoted 40 years, full-time to helping smokers quit. Never Take Another Puff (NTAP) was authored by Joel Spitzer, the Internet's leading authority on how to stop smoking cold turkey. It is an insightful collection of almost 100 articles on every cessation topic imaginable.
  • "Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home" - Written by John R. Polito, a former 30-year heavy smoker and WhyQuit's 1999 founder, Freedom from Nicotine (FFN) is a free nicotine dependency recovery book that documents the science underlying nicotine dependency and successful cessation. Visit Turkeyville, Facebook's most popular quit smoking support group!Whether hooked on cigarettes, e-cigarettes (e-cigs), bidis, kreteks, a pipe, hookah or cigars, on dip, chew, snuff or snus, or on the nicotine gum, lozenge, spray, inhaler or patch, FFN provides a comprehensive yet easy to follow road-map to freedom from nicotine.
  • Turkeyville - Visit Turkeyville, Facebook's most popular quit smoking support group. The group's primary focus is the first few days and helping new quitters get started. Yes you can!
  • Joel's Library - Joel's Library is home to Joel Spitzer's "Daily Quitting Lesson Guide." The Guide walks new quitters through the first two weeks of smoking cessation, recommending daily videos to watch and articles to read. Joel's Library is also home to more than 100 original short stop smoking articles, to his free ebook Never Take Another Puff, and to his collection of more than 200 video stop smoking lessons.
  • Nicotine Addiction 101 - WhyQuit's guide to understanding nicotine dependency.
  • Freedom's small link banner Freedom - Looking for a deadly serious and highly focused education oriented support group? Home to Joel Spitzer, Freedom is the Internet's only 100% nicotine-free peer messageboard support forum. Explore Freedom's hundreds of thousands of archived member posts on how to quit smoking.
  • Nicotine Cessation Topic Index - An alphabetical subject matter index to hundreds of nicotine cessation support group discussions, article and videos.
  • 40 Quitting Tips - Key cold turkey nicotine cessation tips on how to stop smoking, vaping, chewing or sucking nicotine into your body and bloodstream.

Knowledge is a Quitting Method

WhyQuit's small banner

Page format last updated January 29, 2014 by John R. Polito