Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

June 24, 2009


Timothy P. Carney, Examiner - President Barack Obama signed a bill Monday that the largest tobacco company in America had championed for years. Obama nevertheless claimed he had taken on Big Tobacco and won.

As Obama signed the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act," giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco, he proclaimed in the Rose Garden: "Today, despite decades of lobbying and advertising by the tobacco industry, we've passed a law to help protect the next generation of Americans from growing up with a deadly habit. …"

But on Tuesday morning, the home page of Philip Morris, which controls a majority of the U.S. cigarette market, blared "Philip Morris Supports Federal Regulation of Tobacco."

Was Obama ignorant of the $40,000-a-day pro-regulation lobbying effort by the country's biggest cigarette maker?

Was Obama surprised by the applause Monday from Philip Morris' parent company Altria, calling the bill "an important and historic achievement"?. . .

Indeed, an aide to a Republican congressman told this columnist in 2004 that an Altria lobbyist, behind closed doors, asked his boss to back this bill. After it died in the House that year, an Altria spokesman told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "We spent a lot of time and effort on it. We think it's very important to the industry as a whole. We don't have any regrets about pursuing it."

The company's third-quarter 2005 report to shareholders explained that Philip Morris "endorsed federal legislation introduced in May 2004 in the Senate and the House of Representatives known as the Family Smokwing Prevention and Tobacco Control Act" - the very bill Obama signed Monday.

Obama's rhetoric painted the opposite picture. Obama said in signing the bill, "despite the best efforts and good progress made by so many leaders and advocates with us today, the tobacco industry and its special interest lobbying have generally won the day up on the Hill. . . Fifteen years later, their campaign has finally failed. . . Today, change has come to Washington.". . .

One health expert told Slate this bill was "a dream come true for Philip Morris," in part because the company "[protects its] domination of the market and make[s] it impossible for potentially competitive products to enter the market." For one thing, effectively banning advertising won't hurt Marlboro much, but it will crush smaller brands. And adding government control benefits those companies with the best lobbyists.


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July 1, 2009 4:40 PM  

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