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June 18, 2009 at 4:00 PM

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Tobacco regulation

Posted by Letters editor

Pending tobacco bill leaves much to be desired

Continuing news articles and editorials ["Big tobacco finally loses," editorial, June 12] in The Seattle Times have given an undeservedly favorable slant to a very troublesome, even unhealthy, piece of legislation.

The Food and Drug Administration bill awaiting the presidential signature contains so many questionable and even incorrect components that it is hard to imagine Congress actually read it. Let's hope the president does.

The bill claims "light" cigarettes mislead people that they are safer, so the FDA will ban labeling cigarettes as "light." But Congress empowers the FDA to require exactly such cigarettes by lowering nicotine levels. Manufacturers of "light" cigarettes have done that for decades with government approval, though this causes increased smoking, deeper inhaling and more exposure to all the toxic and cancer-causing adulterants.

The bill wrongly describes nicotine as "harmful" although it has been deemed safe in many patented nicotine-delivery products. The FDA, a drug agency after all, acknowledges nothing about the medicinal drug properties of nicotine for stress relief, alertness, digestive relief, appetite suppression and even symptomatic relief for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

There are many other questionable points, but the most stunning is that the FDA will not address, forbid or even warn about the 450 or so registered tobacco pesticides that leave toxic and carcinogenic residues on tobacco. Nor will it regulate or ban the cancer-causing levels of radiation that come from certain still-legal phosphate fertilizers. Those contaminants, easily the most health-damaging parts of typical cigarettes, will be left to the Department of Agriculture -- which has long approved them.

So, Congress has the FDA lowering levels of medically beneficial nicotine but leaving in place some of the most harmful industrial chemical substances on earth. The bill is a lie, packaged as being about protecting kids, but actually about protecting cigarette makers and complicit chemical interests.

-- John Jonik, Philadelphia, Pa.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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