The White House sent out a press release this afternoon letting the world know the world is once again safe for children. Why? Because, after 14 years, the Food and Drug Administration will get its mitts on tobacco regulation.
From the release:
Once the legislation is returned to the House for final passage, it will make history by giving the scientists and medical experts at the FDA the power to take sensible steps that will reduce tobacco's harmful effects and prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children.You know, because tobacco companies these days are just papering the country with cigarette advertising in general and targeting children specifically. Oh, that's right, advertising cigarettes is all but illegal these days. As part of the 1996 Master Settlement Agreement, participating tobacco companies agreed to the following:
- No use of cartoon characters in advertising.
- No sponsorship of concerts, sports teams or athletic events under tobacco brand names, except that each company can do one brand-name sponsorship of a series. (Companies can sponsor under corporate names, just not brand names. An exception was for the Monterrey Kool Jazz Festival.)
- No outdoor tobacco ads, except those smaller than 14 square feet on the outside of stores selling tobacco products or at adult-only venues.
- No transit advertising.
- No video-game advertising.
- No licensing of tobacco brand names for non-tobacco products.
- No giveaways of products with tobacco brand names.
- No free samples.
- No tobacco placement in movies or TV.
- A general ban on youth targeting, but no specific language on magazines.
I'm going to leave aside the critics' argument that the FDA can barely do its current job right. What bugs me is that we're supposed to believe that cigarettes really will kill you if you so much as look at them -- or stand next to someone who looks at them. I'm as big a libertarian as the next guy, but if that's the case, then the government should put its money where its mouth is and come right out and make them illegal.
Now that would reduce tobacco's harmful effects. (As far as reducing health-care costs for taxpayers, I guess it would be positively barbaric of me to suggest not having socialized medicine in the first place. ... Everyone else at Ad Age just blushed and said, "Awww, Dad. Not in public.")
I'd hate to think that the only thing stopping the government from making smokes illegal are a handful of tobacco lobbyists or, more likely, that there's too much tax money to be made off of an addictive substance. What would happen to New York City if it could no longer count on smokers to shell out $10 for a pack of cigarettes?
Here's a great idea for any and all government bodies. Legalize heroin and cocaine. Pray that everyone gets hooked. Then slap them both with sin taxes! (And whine about the evils of marketing while you're doing it.)