Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Killer Tobacco

It’s high time the U.S. government regulate tobacco for what it is—a dangerous drug.

There’s a bill that’s been in Congress that would empower the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the content and marketing of tobacco products.

The FDA would not be able to ban tobacco products outright under the bill, or to eliminate in them nicotine—that ingredient which hooks smokers, narcotic like.

But the FDA would be able to mandate a reduction in levels of nicotine and other harmful ingredients—cancer-causing ingredients—in cigarettes. And it would be able to restrict tobacco advertising.

The legislation has been strongly endorsed by the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids, and other organizations around the country.

In the Senate, Democrat Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, are the sponsors. In the House, Democrat Henry Waxman of California and Republican Tom Davis of Virginia are the sponsors, all of identical, bipartisan measures.

No surprise, the administration of George W. Bush was against the legislation.

President Barak Obama is for it.

The New York Times, in an editorial, has described the legislation as “the culmination of more than a decade of struggle to bring the renegade tobacco industry under regulatory control.”

The tobacco industry has been out of control for many decades.

Its liars-for-hire denied the connection between tobacco smoking and lung cancer. Its advertising in newspapers led to a press silence on the smoking-cancer link, broken only decades-ago by independent investigative reporter George Seldes. It plied politicians with money to fend off government action.

And the tobacco industry and its products kill.

In a recent report, the federal Centers for Disease Control determined that nationwide, tobacco use kills more than 443,000 persons a year. That’s nearly a half million people a year—dying because of smoking.

The number of non-smokers who die each year from exposure to second-hand smoke: 50,000.

The related health care costs: enormous, more than $100 billion annually.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of death in the United States that’s preventable.

But the huge problem has been the powerful tobacco industry—compromising government and the press, peddling its cancer-sticks with abandon, addicting millions of people and lying about the harm of its deadly products.

There’s been litigation against tobacco companies and huge financial judgments.

There needs to be far more action—and now.

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