Waxman’s anti-smoking bill may do more harm than good

(Regarding op-ed “Why I’m backing the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act,” March 27, by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.) Perhaps the notion that members don’t read the legislation they vote on is an outside-the-Beltway myth. But if you were asked to vote on tobacco legislation without having the opportunity to read it — knowing only that the bill was supported by Altria (Philip Morris) and opposed by the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), how would you vote?

I hope you won’t vote with Rep. Henry Waxman, whose bill could be a casebook study of the law of unintended consequences.

By treating all tobacco products equally, Rep. Waxman promotes the fallacy that all tobacco is equally dangerous. Just about every expert agrees that smokeless tobacco, which can be used as a method of harm-reduction for addicted smokers, is significantly less harmful than smoking cigarettes. So instead of giving smokers tools to quit, the bill hinders innovative approaches. No wonder the leading cigarette marketer supports this bill.

Additionally, giving the FDA authority to require lower levels of nicotine in cigarettes could actually harm public health. After all, it is the thousands of harmful chemicals that are burned and inhaled that make tobacco so deadly. Nicotine, while highly addictive, is among the least harmful elements of a cigarette. So reducing nicotine will cause smokers to inhale more of the bad stuff, just to get the same amount of nicotine they crave.

Further, just as the surgeon general’s warning label did decades ago, this type of FDA authority would give Big Tobacco a powerful piece of armor in its quest for immunity from lawsuits.

It is no wonder the FDA’s Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach doesn’t want Rep. Waxman telling the FDA to put a stamp of semi-approval on tobacco products.

Proponents of this legislation are right to target smoking — they just go about it the wrong way.

New York City

Kerry’s message ignored

From Wanda Reanne Griffith

(Regarding article “Kerry, Gingrich joust over global warming issues,” April 11.) I listened to the entire debate this morning, broadcast live by C-SPAN. I do not believe your reporter paid any attention to the position stated by Kerry. ...

Kerry gave the names of corporations that have started programs to lower carbon emissions and use alternative energy. But he believes there is need for a fair playing field that requires federal regulations, standards and goals. ...

As I listened to the same old arguments that private industry could solve the problem by being offered big tax breaks, I think about the deregulation of utilities, promising better and cheaper products, only to have Enron and other companies motivated by greed exploit the public’s need. ...

Your reporter gave all the attention to Newt Gingrich. I have no quarrel with the attention to him. I just thought the reporter would continue by covering Kerry’s position ...

Salt Lake City