BIG TOBACCO I: Philip Morris Would Support FDA Regulation
Marking a major shift in the FDA's fight to regulate t obacco, Steven Parrish, vice president for Philip Morris Cos., said yesterday that the company is willing to allow the FDA to have a say in how cigarettes are marketed, the Washington Post reports. Tobacco companies in the past have fought against FDA regulation, including in the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in December. But yesterday, Parrish said, "I could see at some point in the future an appropriate way to regulate tobacco products." Parrish explained the company's move, saying that Philip Morris wants to "be more open with the public and open a 'dialogue' with longtime adversaries." However, he added that the company "had no intention of giving up its suit" challenging the FDA's assertion of regulatory control. While Philip Morris was acting independently of other tobacco companies, its move "could set the tone for the entire industry" (Schwartz/Kaufman, 2/29).
The Wall Street Journal reports that Philip Morris would be willing to discuss rules to guide development of less risky cigarettes and their marketing, the possibility of expanded warning labels, more extensive disclosures about the harmful ingredients in cigarettes and stiffer measures to combat underage smoking (2/29). However, the company "would not accept what the industry has called 'back-door' prohibition -- such as requiring nicotine levels to drop so low that it would essentially ban the product" (Washington Post, 2/29). Even if the Supreme Court rules in tobacco companies' favor, Philip Morris "still wants to talk to Congress and others about a framework for federal regulation of cigarettes," the Wall Street Journal reports. Parrish said, "We realize that there are legitimate issues involving our products."
Smoking opponents, however, were skeptical of Philip Morris' proposals. Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "Philip Morris understands that it won't be able to resist the clamor for government oversight and regulation, so they're going to Congress with a proposal that won't require a fundamental change in how they do business" (Fairclough, 2/29). Myers added, "The critical question is, 'What does Philip Morris mean by regulation?' Does it consent to the same kind of regulatory authority that the FDA has over the other drugs and foods -- including the power to require that harmful ingredients like nicotine be reduced or eliminated if that would save lives." However, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler called the move "a very big step," adding, "This is real progress, and there's no question but that we need to move ahead." Parrish, along with Kessler and others, will formally announce the proposal Thursday during a forum in California sponsored by Columbia University's Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (Washington Post, 2/29).