Can the FDA Protect Smokers from Injury?

New research blames changes in cigarette design for fueling a certain type of lung cancer, according to an article put out by the associated press. In the article Dr. David Burns of the University of California says that “up to half of the nation’s lung cancer cases may be due to those practices.” Researchers conclude that it is riskier to smoke cigarettes today than it was a few decades ago. In the 1960’s there was a movement toward lower-tar cigarettes. Consequently, that movement changed cigarettes so that they contained less tar and more Nitrosamines, a type of carcinogen. Nitrosamines are a byproduct of tobacco processing and levels vary for a variety of reasons, one of which is curing techniques. The research states that while the nation’s total lung cancer cases have inched down as the numbers of smokers has dropped in recent years, the individual smoker’s risk of getting cancer is higher. The research shows that when smokers switched to the lower tar cigarettes, they began inhaling more deeply to get their nicotine jolt, which pushed cancer causing smoke deeper into their lungs.

Congress is currently debating the issue of whether the FDA should regulate tobacco. President Obama supports legislation that would allow the FDA powers over tobacco products. The Office Management and Budget states: “Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and is a contributing factor to scores of diseases and conditions inflicting misery upon millions of our citizens…Further, Tobacco products-including nicotine and possibly after the study, menthol.” Under new proposed legislation, the FDA would have the power to decide such things as whether to set caps on certain chemicals in tobacco smoke. The FDA would also be given the power to approve or reject new tobacco products and to expand market restrictions and warning labels. Here at the Brod Law firm we see the issue as problematic. The problem with the FDA regulating cigarettes and having its name on warning/safety labels is that it will give the impression that the FDA is saying it is safe to use. Also, tobacco companies may try to protect themselves against any liability by claiming they are in compliance with FDA standards. But we do believe that any regulation is a start in the right direction and that it is better than no regulation at all. Any effort by the government to protect the public from product injury is always a good idea no matter how politically heated the subject.