Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board. He came to Long Island in 2010.
What message are people supposed to take from the decision by the federal Food and Drug Administration to ban the sale of certain new cigarette brands because they may be more dangerous than brands previously sold. Can the new brands kill people twice? Do knives occasionally shoot out of these smokes and plunge into shocked smokers' eyes?
The FDA announced earlier this week that four brands have to be pulled from shelves: Camel Crush Bold, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter Menthol and Vantage Tech 13. Aren't these names awesome, by the way? Left to deduce by moniker alone, I wouldn't know whether I was buying cigarettes, a body spray or a science-fiction movie.
The first nine words of the FDA's mission statement are "The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health." Awesome so far, right? But later on, the mission statement explains that the "FDA also has the responsibility for regulating the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health and to reduce tobacco use by minors." And this is a bad idea, executed poorly.
Having the FDA pick and choose which cigarettes can legally be sold to smokers is like having the FDA determine which brands of rat poison can be sold as dietary supplements.
"We're gonna OK the Rat-B-Dead for people to eat, because that only kills you like half the time. Often it just gives you a severe but survivable heart attack, ulcers, diabetes, bunions, thumb paralysis and, err, the willies, apparently. But we're not gonna OK the Ratpocalypse for human consumption. That stuff is dangerous."
I'm a smoker. I don't support a ban on cigarettes. But I do support a ban on the FDA approving of some cigarettes and not approving of others. You cannot smoke cigarettes safely.
The federal government can ban cigarettes because they kill people, or it can stop having the FDA regulate them. What it can't reasonably do is draw these fine distinctions between different killer products, and in appearance give the government stamp of safety and approval to ones that may be a bit less deadly than others.