I’d like to echo Tevi Troy’s concerns about the tobacco legislation that seems to be taking the express route to the president’s desk. Unless Congress is about to dramatically increase the FDA’s resources, its new tobacco obligations will come at the expense of its other, more important functions. I hear Naderite pro-regulation types complain that the FDA is resource-starved all the time. Requiring the FDA to control the tobacco industry will only make this problem worse.
Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg of this bill’s problems. Among other things, the federal government will have vast new control over the advertising and promotion of a legal product. The First Amendment concerns about some of the bill’s requirements are very real — and there will be years of litigation over its implementation. It’s also a concern that the path to the bill’s passage was paved by the cooperation of the nation’s largest tobacco company, Philip Morris (aka Altria or whatever its name is now). Large incumbent firms tend to like government regulation because it squeezes out competitors. But it should also make regulation advocates wonder: If Philip Morris likes this bill, how much can it really do to control cigarette consumption and protect public health?