Times: Cigarette Pushers Mock the FDA

It's not just that the killers who push cigarettes on kids and adults want to prevent the FDA from regulating them.

It's that to do this, they mock the FDA in "comical" ads.

Remember these Cigarette pushers are the fellas who kill 400,000 Americans each year. Kill and Mock. Kill and Mock.

Reynolds Ads Say Tobacco Oversight Is Burden F.D.A. Doesn’t Need

What do a vaudeville-style plate spinner and the Food and Drug Administration have in common?

Both are trying to keep too many plates in the air, according to a new advertising campaign by the tobacco giant Reynolds American.

As legislation moves through Congress that would give the F.D.A. power to regulate the tobacco industry, Reynolds — with brands that include Camel cigarettes — is attacking what it views as the bill’s vulnerability: a weak, overextended F.D.A.

The company has begun an advertising campaign that includes a television commercial using a comic plate-spinning routine to illustrate its point — that the F.D.A. is overwhelmed and already unable properly to oversee its core mission of ensuring food and drug safety. So why, the ads ask, should Congress add more to its plate?

“Their own scientific experts warn that the F.D.A. can’t do their job properly and warn that lives could be at risk,” the ads say.

The ads, in print as well as on television, are running in Washington as well as in selected regional markets in the districts of crucial members of Congress. The campaign is a response to the momentum of the legislation, whose proponents have been pushing for regulation for more than a decade. Backers say that adoption is a real possibility, even during a presidential election year.

The bill, with bipartisan support, has more than 50 Senate sponsors and 215 sponsors in the House. A Senate committee has already approved the bill, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to take it up on Wednesday.

“This is the most significant progress we have made in a decade toward enacting this bill and we are confident it will pass this year,” said William V. Corr, the executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In a statement, Mr. Corr said it was no surprise that Reynolds was behind the ads because the company had been “the worst offender when it comes to marketing tobacco products to children.”

Last year, six states sued the company’s R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company subsidiary, contending that a promotion in Rolling Stone magazine violated a 1998 agreement not to use cartoons in advertising.

The suit focused on ads for Camel on the cover of a special fold-out section. The section, called Indie Rock Universe, contained graphics intended to look like doodling in a student notebook. Reynolds said the section was produced by Rolling Stone and the ads should not have been placed near the drawings.

In its new campaign, Reynolds introduced a Web site, fdaconcerns.org, and began the television ads last week in nearly a dozen regional media markets.

A spokesman for Reynolds, Tommy Payne, said the company hoped that members of Congress would see the ads and ask, “Is this the best time to pass this legislation, given the problems we have with the core mission of the F.D.A.?” Mr. Payne would not say how much the company was spending. “It’s enough to convey the message,” he said.

One target of the TV campaign is Representative G. K. Butterfield, a Democrat from the home state of Reynolds, North Carolina, who says he supports tobacco regulation. Mr. Butterfield is also a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

A spokesman for Mr. Butterfield, Ken Willis, said the ads began running last week in the congressman’s district, a heavy tobacco-growing region of northeastern North Carolina, where the spots have been featured during televised N.C.A.A. basketball tournament games.

The commercials ask that viewers notify their representatives about concerns over the proposed regulation. Mr. Willis said Mr. Butterfield’s office had received only two calls.

“It obviously doesn’t scare the farmers in the way it might have in years past,” Mr. Willis said, adding that farmers still have markets for their tobacco, in some cases abroad.

While the nation’s biggest tobacco company, Philip Morris, supports the legislation, Reynolds is opposed. A spokesman for Lorillard Tobacco said the company had not yet taken a position.

Analysts contend that the bill could benefit Philip Morris over its smaller competitors. By imposing tighter restrictions on advertising, the new regulations could make it harder for Reynolds to market Camel — No. 3 in the United States market — against the industry’s top seller, Marlboro, which is made by Philip Morris. The No. 2 cigarette brand is Newport, marketed by Lorillard.

Some members of Congress have expressed concerns similar to those raised by Reynolds, saying that the F.D.A. is already overwhelmed. But the bill tries to address that concern by establishing a new center for tobacco regulation within the F.D.A. It would be financed by tobacco industry fees projected at more than $5 billion over the next 10 years.

The bill would also ban candy-flavored cigarettes and give the F.D.A. authority to regulate the content of tobacco products.


Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Senator Obama smokes.

While smoking may be hurting the Senator's lungs, his addiction probably has helped his voice to achieve its seductively warm tenor.

Anonymous said...

Despicable indeed. Good article, which I have now linked to from my own blog. Keep up the good work.