Why Philip Morris Wants the FDA To Regulate Tobacco

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Tim Carney explains.

Amusing little story: A few years ago while I was working at Cato, Robert Levy wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times in opposition to giving the FDA the power to regulate tobacco. A board member from the American Cancer Society wrote a letter to the editor in response pointing out that Phillip Morris at the time gave money to Cato, ergo Levy’s op-ed should be taken as little more than the latest example of a free market think tank serving its corporate paymasters.

Except, as noted, Philip Morris supports FDA regulation of tobacco, and has for some time. In fact, it’s usually a safe bet that big business is going to come down in favor of, not against, whatever hot new regulation is being touted by the nation’s editorial boards. Because they can probably afford to comply with it. And it will make it more difficult for upstart competitors to get into the game.

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18 Responses to “Why Philip Morris Wants the FDA To Regulate Tobacco”

  1. #1 |  ClubMedSux | 

    Wait a minute, wait a minute… Are you suggesting that large corporations actually prefer government regulation to the free market because they have the money and power to manipulate the regulators? But everybody knows that libertarians are just corporate shills and only big government types are looking out for the little guy.

  2. #2 |  Big Chief | 

    I agree that some businesses do indeed take that stance, but I doubt many seek it out. I’ve had personal experience with seeing government come in and establish legislation where there had been none. It was started by NGOs. It was also quite clear that once the regulators were convinced by the NGOs they were going to do something and usually that something was a terrible idea coming from a half-baked understanding of the industry and business formed by the NGOs and government types, who seem to think business works just like the government does. So industry becomes complicit in the action because the alternative is usually worse. So corporations invest a lot of time and effort trying to stop really bad policy (which in my experience is ALWAYS the way it is at the start) to making something more acceptable. Along the way they seem to come to terms with it and convince themselves it’s really for the best. That’s a stance I could never accept.

  3. #3 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    The economics of tobacco are pretty amazing and similar to only a very few other products (such as oil). Big T realized (“had realized for them”) that government would be their sweaty sex partner and it would be good for both of them in the form of making huge sums of money while skirting real liability. It doesn’t matter how much the cost of their product goes up (to some limit), customers still buy. And, as long as the state is making huge sums of money off them, they are “allowed” to stay in business.

    I have to believe the number of hookers, amount of money, and quantity of drugs Big T has bought for state officials over the past 50 years would make even Keith Richards say “Mambleblahry frandhaus ahakli” (translation: “Man, that’s excessive”).

    Under “always follow the money”, just look for products/industries that are HEAVILY taxed and regulated and the real MO of government will be on display.

    Big T would HATE a truly free market for tobacco…and so would Congress.

  4. #4 |  claude | 

    “It doesn’t matter how much the cost of their product goes up (to some limit), customers still buy.”

    Well yeah, until i can find a good black market hookup for smokes. Im looking.

    :)

  5. #5 |  The Democratic Republican | 

    Claude — try the Indian tribal smokeshops. A lot of them get away with not having to charge taxes. Or at least they used to; not sure where all of that is at today.

  6. #6 |  Steve Verdon | 

    In fact, it’s usually a safe bet that big business is going to come down in favor of, not against, whatever hot new regulation is being touted by the nation’s editorial boards. Because they can probably afford to comply with it. And it will make it more difficult for upstart competitors to get into the game.

    My God! You’re telling me that rent seeking and barriers to entry are real?

  7. #7 |  freedomfan | 

    Maybe the American Cancer Society does some good work and I can appreciate their efforts. Up until last year, I would throw a little money their way each year, thinking this is a good way to support research that isn’t funded just by NIH.

    But, that’s basically over. Over the past couple years, I have noticed ACS has taken (or I have finally noticed) a statist goon approach and been active advocates of government regulation for tobacco, food, etc., oftentimes even in instances where the actual research (not the media scare stories) doesn’t even support the claims of substantive harm. This isn’t just “you shouldn’t smoke” and public awareness campaigns. It is “vote for Prop Whatever to ban whatever activity because people can’t be trusted to make their own decisions”. They are spending money to send out pamphlets to get people to support ballot initiatives (this is in California) to ban consensual behavior. That crosses the line.

    BTW, I’ve lost close family members to cancer, my aunt is a survivor, and a good friend of mine (in his thirties) is on chemo for a second time and may not make it. I don’t smoke and really find the practice unpleasant to be around. But, government overreach is not a cure for anything, at least not while liberty isn’t a medical condition.

  8. #8 |  jet | 

    “It doesn’t matter how much the cost of their product goes up (to some limit), customers still buy.”

    I’m considering switching to electronic smokes and vapor. The smokes that are still affordable are skunk. *sigh*

  9. #9 |  freedomfan | 

    BTW, as to the tobacco companies supporting regulations: Of course they do! Even aside from the barriers to market entry and the confidence that the regulators will be controllable (which is almost always the case), this is a chance to have the government effectively approve of tobacco use. After all, no matter what the advocates of regulation say, if the FDA regulates tobacco, that explicitly means they can ban it outright. Of course, though they will continue to inconvenience smokers and sellers of tobacco in half-assed attempts to look concerned over smoking, they won’t ban it. And, that means this is government approval to smoke because the very same statist mindset that holds it’s okay to ban anything that isn’t good for you, also has to conclude that if the government allows you to do something, it must be okay. FDA regulation represents a government stamp of approval.

    Big Tobacco supports Big Government. Big Surprise. Not.

  10. #10 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I’ll say what all of us already know. Nothing happens in Washington for the reasons given in public. We freely admit that and yet, five minutes later, we talk about how government means well, but mostly makes matters worse because it’s inept. We live in a delusional world because the truth is too depressing to face. We are the wife who never leaves her abusive husband.

    Government and big business buried the hatchet and became partners long ago. Now they all share the same goal which is the cultivation of the number one cash crop on the planet: people.

    For government and big business, there are no crises, just opportunities.

  11. #11 |  Michael Pack | 

    I’m tired of all the health scares.People live longer now than ever before.We will all die sooner or later.Even if you smoke and drink and eat a high fat diet chances are you’ll live to see 70.If you have fun and hurt no one it’s your life to live.

  12. #12 |  Mattocracy | 

    “For government and big business, there are no crises, just opportunities.”

    Well said.

  13. #13 |  freedomfan | 

    Dave Krueger:

    We are the wife who never leaves her abusive husband.

    I tend to agree. And, I’d love to send the lying, stealing, controlling, dimwitted bastard packing. So, how do we leave?

    Unfortunately, it’s almost more like a polygamous marriage where you and your conjoined (and retarded) twin are married to an abusive husband, but she refuses to leave. I vote only for candidates who (as best I can ascertain) push for a limited, Constitutional government. (And I vote with my wallet when I can and I discuss liberty with anyone who will listen, for what it’s worth.) But, my fellow voters refuse to vote to kick the abusive statists to the curb. What is the effective way out of this dysfunctional political relationship?

  14. #14 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #13 freedomfan

    What is the effective way out of this dysfunctional political relationship?

    Ever seen a movie called The Burning Bed?

    Maybe we should look at the bright side. As long as we keep on churning out wealth, they’ll at least try to keep most of us alive. I mean anything else would be barbaric.

  15. #15 |  Judi | 

    Yep, I am a LEFTY…lol…with a great left hook! Just ask my ex and his 18 y/o bimbo I caught him with!

  16. #16 |  Windy | 

    freedomfan, I do not support any cancer organization, anymore, because they have been complicit with Big Pahrma and the FDA in keeping natural (far less harmful) cancer treatments (some of which may even be cures for certain forms of cancer) out of the realm of public knowledge. Think about it for a second, what happens to the funding/profits for those organizations and companies if an inexpensive, natural cure for cancer (that also doesn’t involve practically killing oneself to kill the cancer) becomes widespread knowledge? I’ve been thinking this about these agencies for years, and recently have been running into proof, here and there across the net, that there IS a deliberate effort being made to keep these cures and treatments out of the hands of the public. It’s a similar dilemma for us and them as it is with Prohibition of cannabis, they are not going to tell the people the truth or get behind re-legalization because too many agencies and people are making too much money from the criminalization of that harmless, and eminently useful herb — which is, literally, one of those possible cures for some kinds of cancer, see this video for more: http://www.phoenixtearsmovie.com/

    And, to answer your question in post #13, you can start by joining a tea party near you on April 15 and keep working with the other people you meet there. The second think you can do is to start recall petitions in your state for your Senators, and in your congressional district for your House member (I cannot call them “Representatives” without using quotes as they do not represent their constituencies/voters).

  17. #17 |  chris | 

    The Democratic Republican. I believe Spitzer went after the Tribal Shops in New York State for not taxing Tobbacco and Fuel(gas) a few years ago by getting a hold of credit card reciepts and going after the buyers.

    Not sure if anything became of that though.

  18. #18 |  Judi | 

    Oops! Posted my comment in the wrong article! My bad.

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