NY Times Editorial: Close Loopholes in Tobacco Regulation
Tobacco companies manipulate products to attract kids
Posted by: Editor | Sep 4, 2012
An editorial in The New York Times calls on elected officials and the Food and Drug Administration to close tax and regulatory loopholes that tobacco companies have exploited to keep some products cheap, flavored and appealing to kids.
"Give the tobacco industry credit for ingenuity," the Times wrote. "Just when it looked as if federal regulators could block their ability to addict children and young adults, several companies that make cigars and pipe tobacco have sidestepped the barriers by taking advantage of loopholes in federal law."
The editorial highlights two loopholes that need to be closed:
- A 2009 law raised the federal tax on cigarettes, small cigars and roll-your-own tobacco, but taxed larger cigars and pipe tobacco at a much lower rate. To avoid the higher tax, some tobacco companies relabeled roll-your-own tobacco as pipe tobacco and slightly increased the weight of small cigars. By keeping these products cheap, manufacturers make them more affordable to kids and encourage smokers to switch rather than quit.
- The 2009 federal law that gave the FDA authority over tobacco products banned candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes that appeal to kids. In response, some tobacco companies have marketed similarly-flavored cheap cigars, which are not yet regulated by the FDA. The FDA has stated its intent to regulate cigars (and all other tobacco products), but has yet to act.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, released internal tobacco industry documents that show tobacco companies deliberately manipulated their products and created new ones to take advantage of these loopholes.
The Times editorial identifies clear actions needed to close these loopholes: Congress and the states should increase tax rates on all tobacco products to the same rate as cigarettes to prevent tobacco companies from exploiting tax disparities to promote lower-taxed products. The FDA should move quickly to extend its jurisdiction to cigars and all other tobacco products.
Congress must also reject pending legislation that would exempt some cigars from FDA regulation, which would create yet another loophole that tobacco companies would exploit to market their products to kids.