The Fda Tobacco Bill

An Opportunity For A 12-Step Program
A Forces Position Paper

Click here to return to main page THE FDA TOBACCO BILL: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A 12-STEP PROGRAM TOHEAL FROM INSTITUTIONAL ADDICTION
March 2007
© 2007 FORCES International

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Reading the latest FDA Tobacco Bill [1]is no fun – not only because it is a heavy legal document, but especiallybecause of the strident contradictions it contains. It seems to be a pastiche ofconcepts and rhetoric stolen from a great number of pre-existing documents,pasted together to feed the hungry antismoking beasts in the political forest.But some new and previously ignored concepts have also made it in – conceptsthat could be somewhat revolutionary for tobacco policy. That the document isloaded with confusion and contradictions and thus dangers and opportunity makesits exploration worthwhile.

The drafters of the document have notexplored the implications of much of what they put forward. The proposal that “Cigarette standards will include provisions for the reduction of nicotine” [2]  would favour an illegal marketand is contrary to the scientific evidence that nicotine is safe and that highnicotine in smoke will reduce inhalation and thus risk. Such are the conclusionsof the Institute Of Medicine (IOM) Report [3]-- to which the Bill later on (page 100, line 12) defers on all scientificquestions. The proposal on reducing nicotine also contradicts the general toneof the proposed legislation, which does not seem to be hostile to nicotine.

The Bill directs that “theregulations or guidance issued under paragraph (1) shall be developed inconsultation with the Institute of Medicine,and with the input of other appropriate scientific and medical experts, on thedesign and conduct of such studies and surveillance.”Let it be clear, once again, that the Institute Of Medicine Report endorses theconcept of a safer cigarette that reduces inhalation through increaseddelivery of nicotine. That report has been ignored for over five years byantismoking groups that continued to repeat, endlessly, that nicotine is “one ofthe most addictive substances known”.

The incoherence is not over. The Billwould direct the Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee to explore “…whether there is a threshold level below which nicotine yields do not producedependence on the tobacco products involved”. As there is no real,scientific way to establish “dependence” in the first place - let alone athreshold - it is clear that the existence of any threshold will be the productof arbitrary and ever-changing judgement calls dictated more by beliefs andpolitical, social and financial agendas than by science.

Furthermore, it is stated elsewhere that “Nicotine is an addictive drug” and that “only Congress has authorityto remove all nicotine from cigarettes.” The Bill thus acknowledges thecentral role of nicotine – a role that is so paramount, in fact, that only atop political body such as the Congress can have power over it. Moreover, theBill admonishes repeatedly against regulation that would favour the illegaltrade, which a reduction of nicotine would certainly do. And it endorses theidea that  “No flavor additives will be added, other than menthol”, [4] a splendid provision to favour anillegal market.

If we try to put those concepts alltogether to make sense out of them, the Bill as it stands comes out as sayingsomething like along these lines: Nicotine is an addictive drug and, because ofthis tremendous power of addiction, smokers keep inhaling deadly toxics and over400,000 of them die each year. Therefore, we will try to establish a thresholdof that addiction and thus try to reduce the nicotine contents ofcigarettes. To that end we will defer to the authority of the IOM, which statesthat nicotine contents of cigarettes must be maintained or increased toreduce inhalation of the toxics, thus obtaining a safer product!

The incoherence and confusion of theantitobacco establishment cannot be more glaring.

Regardless, the new concept that we seein this bill  – a real revolution in the antitobacco industry – is theacknowledgment that a less risky product can be made. This alone is arefreshing contrast to all the propaganda and abolitionist philosophy that “acigarette cannot be safe (or safer)”. Of course nothing is (absolutely) “safe”,and “safety” has become a rhetorical cultural fixation with chimericalovertones.  However, many products can indeed be made to be safer or lessrisky – cigarettes included.

One could argue that the legislativeproposal points an accusing finger towards those antismoking groups and publichealth “authorities” that for decades have suppressed both the development of asafer cigarette and the notion of its feasibility, thus causing – using theirown statements that we don’t share – an immense number of deaths in the world.

Assuming this as reality and consideringthat a safer cigarette was conceived, developed and researched by the USNational Cancer Institute Smoking and Health Program (killed in 1978 to embracesmoking abolitionism), [5] Americanand international “public health authorities” are responsible for the deathsof hundreds of millions. According to antitobacco’s own figures, in fact, ifsafer cigarettes were introduced in 1980, they would have prevented  hundreds ofmillions of  “premature” (whatever that really means) deaths world-wide. Itwould be nice to see international tribunals at work, now, to bring to accountthose responsible for this state of affairs – but that is just a fantasy: theperpetrators of the virtual carnage get promoted in rank, power, and moneyinstead.

Because Philip Morris seems to be theonly major manufacturer that supports the bill, legitimate suspicions arise thatPM is seeking a position of market monopoly. How may PM “put the bag” onsmokers, politics and “public health”" From his point of view, tobacco controlanalyst Michael Siegel points out many of the potential traps of this bill inhis piece “Tobacco bill would cause countless deaths: by hindering, notenhancing development of safer cigarettes, proposal would kill people, not savelives”. [6]  Siegel’s observationsare well-reasoned, and continued with his article “Harvard report continuesto deceive: FDA bill would preclude single most effective regulatory action toprotect health that is politically feasible”. [7] In the latter article Siegel (who is of course in favour ofless risky cigarettes) comes to the only possible logical conclusion on how toachieve them: a safer cigarette is a product with much more nicotine and farless toxic constituents, although the political opportunity for a safercigarette based on this principle does not seem to be caught. However, wereSiegel to be correct in his interpretation that the Bill intends to actuallyreduce nicotine content, that would turn into the greatest public healthdisaster in history.

A 12-step program to recovery

We have already indicated that this Billis a most visible manifestation of the intellectual, moral, and rhetoricalenmeshment of a movement that is utterly drunk with nihilism, abolitionism,moral poisoning and prohibition. But there is still hope for recovery. Torecover, the tobacco politics should go through a 12-step program that can bringit back to the sobriety of coherence and reason. To that end many politicaladmissions (or even confessions") must be forthcoming:

  1. The official admission of thedramatic failure of the tobacco control goal of a “smoke-free America by theyear 2000”, swept under the rug along with the information that nicotine isnot a dangerous substance. The fact that about 1/3 of the adult populationstill smokes in the United States does not mean a failure of “public health”but rather a failure of the concept of social engineering propaganda.
     
  2. The admission that smoking is part ofthe culture and of the way of life of millions, and that it is a simple butimportant reward that over a billion people in the world share and don’tintend to surrender.
     
  3. That such reward is so important forsmokers (and, in a climate of persecution, so much identified with personalliberty and self-determination) that they endure the frustration, humiliation,harassment, segregation and social “denormalization” programmes perpetratedagainst them and carried out by dishonest and obtuse “authorities” all overthe world.
     
  4. “Pro-smoking” groups should admitthat cigarettes constitute an increased statistical risk and – on topof the rights issue and of the fight against the passive smoke fraud[8] – they should demand, as consumersand in unison, the production of a safer cigarette based on morenicotine and lower toxic constituents. The production of a cigarette thatkeeps the characteristics of a normal cigarette (burning, flavour, andactual smoke inhalation) and not those of a “nicotine delivery device”. Thelatter is more associated with syringes and heroin than with a time-honouredhabit and ritual which, once devoid of risky components, is also capable ofdelivering psychological and physical benefits to the consumer besidespleasure and joy of living.
     
  5. Smokers should also be prepared to change and adapt their tastes and preferences -- and abandon the stiff “loyalty” to a particular brand or type which is typical of so many of them.
     
  6. The antitobacco campaigns laden with rhetoric, instigation, false information, exaggeration,hatred, “denormalization”, fear and social pressures should stop – along withsmoking bans – to reduce/eliminate social and emotional hysteria. The socialenvironment should be relaxed and normalized to prepare for the acceptanceof a new, safer product. It is essential that smokers, as a group, donot feel pressured or driven into a decision, but adopt the new product(s)truly by their own volition,  thus ensuring stability of choice andavoiding the temptation to turn to a black market environment to obtain “thegood stuff” -- for the good stuff may well become the safer product.
     
  7. If smoking were as deadly as they sayit is (a position that – we emphasize - we do not share as there are only statistical bases with a multiplicity of co-factors), the marketing ofa product based on high nicotine content greatly reducing the inhalation oftoxics makes sense even in the absence of epidemiological studies.These studies (by their very nature) not only require time, but would notbe able to reliably measure improvements (unless they could freeze timeand any change in society and environment for about 20 years), let alonereliably account for a myriad of confounders.
     
  8. Coherence with the point abovedemands an immediate end of all misinformation and scare propagandaagainst nicotine and its “addictiveness”. The whole “addictiveness” rhetoricshould be dropped – along with the antismoking “education” against it directedto young and old: smoking must go back to being a socially accepted way oflife worthy of dignity and respect – but, this time, with a productthat is safer and is getting safer every day thanks to technologicalimprovements and ever-changing taste and preference of the consumers. Simplelogic and common sense dictates that consumers will be willing to adapt theirtastes, and demand a safer product without the need of being pushed into aforced choice through behaviour modification programmes.
     
  9. The definition of addiction itselfshould be revisited and actually re-written – reserving the word only to thosesubstances that are psycho-toxic, as they alter personal behaviour in a socially destructive manner while producing no scientificallydemonstrable benefit for the user. The mere repetition of use or rituals doesnot constitute addiction, as pleasurable experiences of all kinds inducethe natural  desire to repeat the experience. Even in the presence ofcompulsion to the use of a substance that not only is harmless, but could evenbe beneficial (such as nicotine) the negative connotation of the word addiction should be avoided – for “addiction” to good things should be atthe core of honest Public Health.
     
  10. Taxation and price policies should bedesigned to facilitate the use of the safer products. Better yet, pricesshould be allowed to fluctuate according to a free market. States should beallowed to compete through taxation and in the full respect of freedom ofinterstate commerce.
     
  11. Advertisement of an ever-safercigarette should be permitted and encouraged, while allowing endorsement ofthe safer cigarettes by current public icons. This, along with point (10), isin diametrical opposition to this bill which is not just un-American, but anti-American both in spirit and intents.
     
  12. At the same time, “healthauthorities” should stop the demonization of the tobacco industry along withthat of smoking and smokers. All form of antismoking radical postures shouldbe discouraged – and politicians could easily achieve that by demanding thecutting of public financing to radical antismoking groups. Instead ofdemonization, a form of cooperation between industry, health authorities,consumers and media should be encouraged

All that, of course, spells out aradical change in approach, politics and philosophy towards the habit – to thepoint that the very words “antismoking” and “tobacco control” should changetheir meaning. Better yet, they should be eliminated altogether because of theemotions, obtuseness, resentment and dishonesty they have become synonyms of.They should be replaced with definitions inspired to risk reduction, socialacceptance and cooperation with smokers, whose voice should be heard andrespected as consumersnot addicts - while involving them ascontributing stakeholders and actors in the process rather than “passivepatients” in need of “therapies”, “help” and “preventions” that they neverreally asked for. That would allow this organization and all the othersmokers’ representatives to stop writing “public health” in quotes andlowercase, and to write it again in capital letters, as respect for theinstitution would be restored.

The “war on smoking” and smokers mustend and be replaced with a cooperation of all to build a product that is saferevery day. Wars have always been bad for Public Health anyway – and that is afact which is truly scientifically demonstrated.

-- The FORCES International Board ofDirectors

_______________________

[1] See: http://www.data-yard.net/prohibition/bill.2007.pdf
[2] Page 55, line 1.

[3]See Institute Of Medicine Report Clearing the Smoke at http://books.nap.edu/catalog/10029.html

[4]Page 53, line 10.

[5]See: Virtually Safe Cigarettes: Revisiting an Opportunity Once Tragically Rejected,by Gio Batta Gori, ISBN: 1-58603-057-4, Publisher: IOS Press.
Also:Less Hazardous Smokes, Regulation, Winter 2002-2003.

[6]See: http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2007/02/fda-tobacco-bill-would-cause-countless.html

[7]See: http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2007/02/harvard-report-continues-to-deceive-fda.html

[8] See: Passive Smoke: an Institutional Problem - Fabricated risks attributed to passivesmoke (/evidence/psaip.htm)

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