The tobacco industry’s federal clout lessened some five years ago when President Clinton announced he was authorizing the FDA to regulate tobacco as an addictive drug. The industry’s fortunes in Washington changed again this week when, on March 21, the Supreme Court ruled the FDA has no authority to do so.
The tobacco industry’s federal clout lessened some five years ago
when President Clinton announced he was authorizing the FDA to regulate
tobacco as an addictive drug. The industry’s fortunes in Washington
changed again this week when, on March 21, the Supreme Court ruled the
FDA has no authority to do so.
Major media coverage surveyed by CARMA consistently pointed to Congress
as the next major battleground for the industry. The court’s decision
puts the issue ’squarely in the lap of Congress,’ according to former
FDA commissioner David Kessler (National Public Radio, March 21).
Many media outlets across the US noted that in spite of the court’s 5-4
split decision, the judges were unanimous in identifying tobacco use as
a major public health threat. ’The agency has amply demonstrated that
tobacco use, particularly among children and adolescents, poses perhaps
the single most significant threat to public health in the United
States,’ said Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (Washington Post, March
A significant amount of coverage speculated that Congress is unlikely to
do anything for or against tobacco in 2000 because it is a presidential
election year, and ’Big Tobacco’ money buys influence with campaign
Multiple outlets cited tobacco industry opponent and former Republican
presidential candidate Sen. John McCain as saying, ’I’m not optimistic
that we will be able to get that done until we have campaign finance
reform,’ (Dallas Morning News, March 22).
Some coverage focused attention on the industry’s openness to
’We think this decision provides an opportunity to sit down and talk
about what appropriate regulation of cigarettes would look like,’ said
Philip Morris spokesperson Brendan McCormick (Fresno Bee, March 22).
Several outlets identified the industry’s legal troubles as a larger
threat than the federal government. Referring to a Florida class action
lawsuit known as the Engle case, Joseph Lieber, an analyst with
Washington Analysis, said, ’Tobacco’s big fear still is ... the
I think you’re going to continue to see lawsuits filed. I still think
tobacco’s in a very serious situation’ (Nightly Business Report, March
Coverage also noted that tobacco will be an issue in this year’s
presidential election and that its outcome will impact the industry’s
fate in the next Congress. ’The makeup of the White House and Congress
after the fall election may determine any bill’s shape,’ predicted The
New York Times (March 22).
A smaller amount of coverage indicated the industry wants federal
regulation to shield it from potentially bankrupting lawsuits. ’What the
industry wants is containment of lawsuits and peace ... And the way to
get that is through Congress and by putting themselves in a position
where they are willing to be regulated. They are setting themselves up
to deal,’ said industry analyst Mary Aronson (Los Angeles Times, March
While the media repeatedly identified the Supreme Court’s decision as a
victory for the industry, it also emphasized that the decision may be
only a minor detour before some form of federal regulation comes down
- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be
found at www.carma.com.