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?