The primary motivation of the new legal right of the FDA to regulate tobacco, endorsed by the legislature and signed into law on June 22nd, is to reduce both health risks to humans and economic risks to the health industry. The new legislation was reportedly supported by 70% of the American public as well as over 1,000 public health, faith, and other organizations (Tobacco Free Kids, 2009).
In a summary provided by Tobacco Free Kids, the recent legislation will allow for stricter marketing rules in regard to advertising tobacco to children, stopping the production of candy and fruit flavored tobacco products, promoting bolder, larger, and more emphasized health warnings, disclosures of the specific contents of tobacco products, promoting changes in contents, better research about the health effects of tobacco, restricting the use of misleading terms such as “light” and “low tar”, regulation of health related claims regarding tobacco to scientifically proven ones, and empowering the FDA to require any necessary changes in the tobacco products.
In looking to the facts presented by Tobacco Free Kids, tobacco use reportedly causes the deaths of over 400,000 Americans every year and delivers a crushing bill to the nation’s health care system, costing $96 billion each year. Each day, over 1,000 children become introduced to tobacco as new regular smokers and another 1,200 people are dying from tobacco related illness. In looking to the harm the tobacco industry causes to public health and the costs of paying for the treatment of tobacco related illnesses, it is a good idea that the government and FDA are moving to regulate the tobacco industry and impose more restrictions.
In a recent report by Heavey, there are people who do believe that the new legislation will cost the government too much money in attempts to highly regulate the industry, casting scorn at the initiatives for more governmental controls (2009). According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency which analyzes legislation, the new bill would increase the United States budget deficit between 2010 and 2019, increasing costs by $900 million.
The office has also stated that it is difficult to calculate the true financial impact that a decrease in tobacco use would have on healthcare costs. Some people believe that money would be better spent on more direct efforts to help people to quit their smoking habits, encouraging the government to stay out of the affairs of private citizens. However, in looking to the views of opponents, there seems to be more weight on the side of people who have supported the newly enacted legislation.
On a surface level, if spending 90 million dollars on governmental regulation per year would effectively reduce the annual 90 billion dollars in health care costs, then it certainly reasonable to try. Saving the lives of thousands of Americans and money of millions of citizens has to be a priority for the general public, with the government taking the lead in expressing the desires and wishes of its constituents and taking action to implement their will.
By the FDA taking on the responsibility to regulate the tobacco industry, the scientific objectivity in regard to tobacco health risks are going to come under increasing scrutiny, due to the fact that the FDA was implemented to protect public health. Some people argue that the FDA is not equipped to regulate products which have no health value, such as tobacco products, while other people claim that the benefits of tobacco have been ignored and drowned out in the recent waves of tobacco opposition.
There are people in the tobacco industry who hope that by the FDA placing a truly scientific lens to the benefits and risks of tobacco products, that the positive aspects of tobacco will be realized and that the hype surrounding tobacco illnesses will be reduced. Despite these hopes, there is already much scientific evidence that tobacco products are highly risky, even deadly, and some people in the FDA even resist taking on tobacco products as foods or drugs.
Gutierrez (2008) explains that FDA chief Eschenbach views tobacco products as harmful and disease producing and claims that the FDA’s role is solely to regulate products which are beneficial to public health. Currently, the fact that there is no scientific context in which to determine the benefits of tobacco, the FDA would need to conduct new research almost immediately which serve to illustrate the health benefits of tobacco products, a much awaited occurrence in the eyes of tobacco manufacturers.
The idea of the government spending money to support tobacco health benefits would be a boost to their industry, at no cost to them. Eshenbach resists this upcoming challenge, voicing the opinion that the assumption of tobacco by the FDA promotes the idea that tobacco is safe or good for people’s health, also citing the lack of staff and resources to take on the tobacco industry within the FDA.
Despite the arguments about the risks and safety levels of using tobacco products and trying to regulate them, there remains the strong belief that regulation of tobacco products can very possibly reduce health risks, save lives, and lower health related expenses in treating tobacco illnesses. Although the implementation of tobacco regulation within the FDA may require new initiatives and higher expenses, the calculation that the FDA can help protect American citizens from tobacco hazards as well as spare many more valuable lives and dollars is an intelligent bet.
Despite the arguments of people who see governmental investigation and controls as unnecessary interferences, there is a very strong voice on the other side of the fence who say that the initiative of private citizens has been harmful and expensive and that now the government is going to step in, intervene, and save this country’s lives and dollars. It makes much more sense to spend a little bit of money on regulation than to allow the tobacco industry to run rampant through society without appropriate discipline or consideration of public health and expenses.
FDA Authority Over Tobacco. (2009). Tobacco Free Kids. Retrieved on 6/24/09 from http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/fda.
Gutierrez, D. (2008). Why Philip Morris Supports FDA Regulation of Tobacco. Natural News. Retrieved on 6/24/09 from http://www.naturalnews.com/022922_tobacco_Philip_Morris_FDA_regulation.html.
Heavey, S. (2009). Senate Debates FDA Regulation on Tobacco. Reuters. Retrieved on 6/24/09 from http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE55158O20090602.