At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last week and in a subsequent news conference, Dr. Kessler-now dean of Yale University's School of Medicine-called for Congress to reject the global tobacco settlement and enact something stronger. He criticized R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s new Camel Lights ad campaign for targeting "18-to-24-year-olds."
"When he tries to restrict advertising to adults, [that] crosses over a threshold," said Dan Jaffe, exec VP of the Association of National Advertisers. "He is apparently suggesting even adults can't be trusted to handle advertising."
Though no longer at the FDA, Dr. Kessler remains a major presence in the lobbying and talks revolving around the tobacco settlement. He joined ex-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in testifying, both urging the Commerce Committee to draw its own tobacco settlement.
More than one public health group has referred to recommendations from Drs. Koop and Kessler in drafting their own criticism of the settlement.
CHANGE IN DIRECTION
When the FDA originally unveiled its rules on tobacco, Dr. Kessler denied he was trying to ban tobacco or tobacco ads aimed at adults. He said he was trying to bar illegal attempts to reach smokers under 18. After the hearing, however, Dr. Kessler said more restrictions may be needed.
"I think it is time to reduce [all] the positive imagery associated with smoking," he told Advertising Age, in reference to the new Camel campaign from Mezzina/Brown, New York.
RJR spokeswoman Maura Ellis defended its advertising, saying it's "very adult and sophisticated."
"When Dr. Kessler and the FDA promulgated their rules, they asserted that [the] purpose was to stop underage tobacco use," said John Fithian, an attorney for the Freedom to Advertise Coalition. "It's quite clear now that the agenda has expanded beyond the proper goal of stopping underage tobacco use."
Senators attending the hearing and a second hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned the idea of trying to rewrite the complicated settlement and indicated that while changes are possible, changes in the ad restrictions are unlikely.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) said the role of the FDA needs to be better resolved in final legislation and there may be renegotiating of how money from the deal is spent, but he urged caution in rejecting the deal.