The Next Step in Government’s Ambivalent Relationship with Tobacco

President Obama now has on his desk a bill permitting the FDA to regulate tobacco.

After the bill becomes law, tobacco-product manufacturers must register with the FDA and provide a detailed product list. They also must pay user fees to cover the cost of the new regulation.
The FDA can evaluate health claims made by cigarette makers and require companies to change their tobacco products. Packets of cigarettes will have larger and more strongly worded warning labels. There will be strict controls on advertising, stopping use of the terms “mild” and “low tar.”

Because, after all, tobacco use is a seriously unhealthy habit.
However, setting aside yet another unacceptable instance of goverment meddling (if you extend the definition of meddling to include outright ownership) in a private industry and looking at this pragmatically,

Since 1998, federal, state and local governments collected more than $284 BILLION in cigarette taxes and payments

So this unhealthy habit is, in fact, a cash cow for our government. They count on it to fund programs that they deem valuable.
Is it wise, then, to mess with a revenue stream by empowering a government agency to modify the product sold?
It’s necessary to do so for reasons of public safety, comes the reply. Indeed, such a case can be made. But if that is so, should the goverment be profiting from an unhealthy habit practiced by its citizens?

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14 years ago

Yes. Smokers’ habit is a drain on government resources when they get these horrible smoking related diseases and their insurance doesn’t cover all the costs. Or the uninsured put the health cost of their cute little habit completely on the taxpayers. I’m fine with taxing the hell out of it, and then if more taxes make people quit, then there are fewer health issues, insurance costs go down, uninsured health claims go down.
I’m already predicting that within 50 years, young people will look at us and ask “how was smoking once legal?” It astonishes me. Imagine trying to sell a new product that has the health issues that smoking does, and try to get it approved under “free choice”? No chance.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
14 years ago

Banning alcohol worked out real well for this country,now didn’t it?
It made organized crime “bigger than US Steel”-a line spoken in Godfather II by Lee Strasberg,my mom’s cousin’s husband.

14 years ago

Smokers’ habit is a drain on government resources, How about illegals a big drain. But you notice our leaders do nothing about that drain!

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