HEALTH AND SAFETY

» Drug, Devices, and Supplements

» Physician Accountability

» Consumer Product Safety

» Worker Safety

» Health Care Delivery

» Auto and Truck Safety

» Global Access to Medicines

» Infant Formula Marketing

 

Read our outrages

If you're not outraged,
you're not paying attention!


Read what Public Citizen has to say about the biggest blunders and outrageous offenses in the world of public health, published monthly in Health Letter.

Court Allows Big Tobacco to Hide the Graphic Dangers of Smoking

January 2013

Sidney M. Wolfe, M.D.

We are sure you have already heard some of the government-issued facts on the deadly risks of smoking cigarettes, but they bear repeating.

Tobacco use, the leading preventable cause of death, is responsible for about 1 in 5 deaths annually, or about 443,000 deaths per year. (An estimated 49,000 of these are due to secondhand smoke exposure.) Smokers die an average of 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers. Societal health costs of smoking are estimated at more than $193 billion a year ($96 billion in health care expenditures), with an additional cost of $10 billion for secondhand smoke.

You would think that in the face of this frightening information, the powers that be would do everything possible to further reduce this preventable epidemic. The need for more intervention is clear: Every day, 1,000 people under the age of 18 become daily smokers, and 69 percent of adult smokers wish to quit.

Armed with the recently passed Tobacco Control Act, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has, in fact, attempted to deter smoking by proposing that alarming, graphic warning labels appear on cigarette packaging. One of the nine mandatory warning labels proposed by FDA includes an image of a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, while another shows a plume of cigarette smoke surrounding an infant receiving its mother’s kiss. Such pictures would be accompanied by information highlighting the health risks of smoking and would cover the top half of cigarette packs, front and back.

It should be noted that many countries require much more than 50 percent of space on cigarette packs to be covered with such information. According to a recent Canadian Cancer Society report, dozens of countries require large, pictorial warnings about smoking dangers to cover a majority of the packaging, including Canada (75 percent of the package), Sri Lanka and Uruguay (both 80 percent), and the leader, Australia, with 82.5 percent of the package devoted to these crucial health prevention measures.

But back in the U.S., where our First Amendment has been bizarrely interpreted, resulting in such catastrophes as the Citizens United decision, the extremely harmful industry sued to block the proposed FDA regulation. In the lawsuit, some of the nation’s largest tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., argued that rights bestowed by the First Amendment protected them from yielding to the potentially life-saving FDA requirement.

What happened? From the headline of this article, you might guess. The deadly monkey wrench thrown by the cigarette industry unfortunately resulted in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling in favor of the tobacco industry. Is this not an Outrage? In our country, the right to sell deadly products unfettered by pictures that would discourage their sale and use has trumped the public’s health.

Copyright © 2014 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.

 

To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.