You know the drlll. We must not let the perfect pair of lungs be an enemy of the free market good.
Despite pleas from health organizations, the Obama administration has tossed FDA concerns about the dangers of electronic cigarettes with the usual cavalier promise to "revisit" the e-cigarette issue at such time that more scientific studies prove harm. And regarding cigars, a cost-benefit analysis conducted by now-HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell concluded that that the human lives saved by issuing warnings are just not as important as corporate profits.
You read that right. The person who stomped all over public health to placate the lords of carcinogenic capitalism has just been confirmed to a major cabinet position designed to protect the public health.
Obama seems to have ignored a letter sent to him and signed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Legacy. Reports of poisonings from candy-flavored nicotine containing "e-liquids" have already tripled from 2012 to 2013, with sometimes deadly results.
But lest you think Obama is a complete wimp, you should also know that he did not give in to the poison-peddlers without the pretense of a fight! Even though kids will still be allowed to buy their electronic ciggies both online and over the counter, he and Burwell bravely drew a red line in the sand on those dangerous vending machine sales to minors. If young folks want their e-ciggies, they'll have to show their gumption by asking for them directly. Inserting some coin and pushing a button is taking the easy way out, and not showing enough grit and determination and personal responsibility.
And thus, for the profitable time being, the youth of America can suck away to their lungs' content. If they start succumbing in greater cost-benefit analytical numbers, then the government can always revisit a clampdown on the manufacturers. Or so soothed an FDA spokeswoman who did not dare criticize her boss because of that whole Insider Threat anti-whistleblowing program that Obama has got going. Meanwhile, the public can still feel free to comment... if they
To repeat, and to be fair, when Burwell decided to blow away the proposed regulations, she hadn't yet been confirmed as the new protector of the public's welfare. She was merely acting as one of the main protectors of corporate welfare during her stint as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
It was Burwell's job then (and, let's face it, now) to crunch the numbers, weigh business profits against human costs, and then to decide whether proposed regulations in the public interest are really worth the plutocratic aggravation. As Reuters explains,
The FDA has authority under a 2009 law to regulate cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco, but must issue new rules before regulating e-cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, water pipes and other tobacco products.
In April, the FDA issued a proposal which would subject the $2 billion e-cigarette industry to federal regulation for the first time. It would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18 and vending machine sales.
The proposal disappointed public health advocates who criticized the agency's failure to restrict flavored products or television advertising, which they say attracts children, and criticized the agency for not moving to restrict online sales, where it can be harder to verify a person's age.
In its draft, the FDA had proposed "prohibition of non-face-to-face sales (e.g. vending machines)." That would have opened the door to a ban on online sales. But OMB edited the sentence so that the prohibition refers only to vending machines.So, I guess the FDA rationale was that if they made their regulatory language fuzzy enough, that would eventually put the kibosh on the very lucrative internet e-cig marketplace. How very naive of them, thinking that they could sneak in an anti-capitalist gateway regulation drug of this sort! The FDA obviously didn't know their OMB from a hole in the wall. You do not pull a fast one on Sylvia Mathews Burwell or the ruling class racketeering world from whence she came.
Oh, and let's not forget about those designer cigars and the plutocrats who smoke them. Apparently, putting a health warning on filthy cigars would outrageously mar the pleasures of the filthy rich.... who like to indulge their expensive passion on their very special occasions. It just would not do to tamp down their enjoyment. It would totally waste the post prandial Downton Abbey smoking rooms to which the gents retire with their glasses of Port.
It's not like the Rockefellers and the Trumps chain-smoke their stogies, for crying out loud! But anyway,(again via Reuters) let the Republican Cigar Caucus tell it in their own hack-neyed way:
In a December 2013 letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who was director of OMB at the time and is now Secretary of Health and Human Services, 24 Republican lawmakers asked that premium cigars be exempt.
"As you know," they wrote, "premium cigars are a niche product with an adult consumer base, much like fine wines. The majority of people who enjoy a cigar do so occasionally, often in social or celebratory settings."
When the proposed rule came out in April, some public health advocates expressed dismay.
"The part of the proposal we are deeply troubled by is the sweetheart deal for the cigar industry," Erika Sward, assistant vice president for national advocacy at the American Lung Association.As the Lung Association and the American Cancer Society both point out, the Obama administration's exemption of cigars from FDA rules will also enable sellers of those candy-flavored cigar-like products popular with minors to also take advantage of the deregulation. Put something in a fancy box and put a label on it and a ring around it, and presto chango -- a cigar is a cigar is a cigar.
Meanwhile, the Tobacco lobby is