In smoke-filled rooms

Phillip Morris and the government to cash in on FDA’s flavored cigarette prohibition.
  • Daily Editorial Board
September 23, 2009

The Food and Drug Administration’s ban on flavored cigarettes went into effect yesterday, criminalizing the sale of smokes with flavors like strawberry and vanilla and banning the sale of clove cigarettes such as the increasingly popular Indonesian Djarum brand in attempt to keep youngsters from smoking.
But nicotine addiction has proven enormously lucrative for state and federal budgets: smokers, a quarter of which fall below the poverty line, pay tens of billions of dollars in federal taxes each year. Now, federal and state taxes on cigarettes account for nearly half the cost of a pack of Marlboro reds, $2.50 out of the $5.22 Robbinsdale’s Smoke Shop charges. So why ban flavored cigarettes if it means fewer federal revenues?
Because it doesn’t. In fact, the ban will likely increase revenues, and not just for the government. Tobacco monolith Philip Morris, the only tobacco corporation to support granting the FDA regulatory authority over the U.S. cigarette market this summer, shrewdly anticipated using the regulations to consolidate its market share and crowd out burgeoning competition, like Djarums and yet undeveloped alternatives, which must now attain preliminary approval from the FDA before manufacturing.
Smoke Shop’s Moe Salaymeh explained of the FDA ban, “It will make people switch to more expensive cigarettes, because a lot of the flavored cigarettes are cheaper.” Not only are they cheaper, they are largely sold by small, often foreign, competitors. In the name of children, Philip Morris has successfully made the FDA a vessel of its own monopolistic interests.

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