President's Commission: Comments and Cover Letter- Philip Morris USA, 2/14/01 6:47PM
120 PARK AVENUE, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10017 – TELEPHONE (917) 663 - 5000
February 14, 2001
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250-0574
Dear Commission Members:
Philip Morris USA is pleased to submit the attached comments on the Preliminary Report of the President’s Commission on Improving Economic Opportunity in Communities Dependent on Tobacco Production While Protecting Public Health. We look forward to working with the Commission as it completes its final report.
Senior Vice President,
Comments of Philip Morris USA
TOBACCO COMMUNITIES AT A CROSSROAD:
The Preliminary Report of the President’s Commission on Improving Economic Opportunity in Communities Dependent on Tobacco Production While Protecting Public Health
Tobacco Communities and Philip Morris USA: Sharing Perspectives, and Working Toward Our Common Goal of Sensible, Effective Regulation
Philip Morris Incorporated ("PM USA") is pleased to submit these comments on the preliminary report of the President’s Commission. We believe that the preliminary report represents an excellent start, and has many sound suggestions for advancing important policy issues regarding tobacco and cigarettes in the United States. The Commission’s request for public comment on the preliminary report is a welcome signal that it is seeking input from a variety of stakeholders, and will be seeking to create a final report that is balanced, practical and can be used as the basis for further discussions as these issues progress, both within and outside Congress.
We look forward to working with the Commission, and representatives of our nation’s tobacco-growing communities, on many of the issues raised in the preliminary report, and to advancing our shared interest in finding ways to bring more stability, predictability and uniformity to the U.S. tobacco industry.
Because of our belief that it is the most important and timely of the issues raised by the Commission regarding that shared interest, these comments will focus on the preliminary report’s proposal – which we embrace – for legislation that would, among other things, grant the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco manufacturers, but not growers or their farms. Other items mentioned in the report, such as promoting fair trade in tobacco products, and moving tobacco quota into the hands of active growers, also merit discussion, and we would be happy to open a dialogue with the Commission regarding them at its convenience.
A Shared Perspective on Smoking and Health
As an initial matter, we think it’s important to make clear that the views expressed by the Commission in Section II of the report, relating to harms caused by smoking, track very well with our own. Generally speaking, the Commission’s message on these issues is our message, too.
PM USA supports a single, consistent public message on the role played by cigarette smoking in the development of disease in smokers, and smoking and addiction. We believe that there is no "safe" cigarette, and we agree with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers. In addition, we agree with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking is addictive.
Moreover, it is a fact that government agencies have concluded that secondhand smoke causes disease - including lung cancer and heart disease - in nonsmokers, and many people have health concerns regarding it. In addition, because of concerns relating to conditions such as asthma and respiratory infections, we believe that particular care should be exercised where children are concerned, and smokers who have children - particularly young ones - should seek to minimize their exposure to secondhand smoke.
For more information regarding our views on smoking and health, please visit our web site athttp://www.philipmorrisusa.com.
Moving Quota into the Hands of Active Growers
PM USA shares the Commission’s belief that efforts should be made to encourage the movement of quota into the hands of active growers. Currently there are provisions in the Federal Tobacco Program that would help achieve this, if strictly enforced. There may be other equitable methods to move quota into the hands of active growers instead of the quota buyout envisioned by the Commission; we believe those alternative paths should be explored, and are open to dialogue to see how they can best be followed.
Promoting Free and Fair Trade in Tobacco Products
PM USA fully supports the Commission’s call for a review of U.S. Government policies regarding the export of U.S. leaf tobacco. American tobacco – which remains the highest quality in the world – as well as the manufactured tobacco products that are made from it, should be eligible to participate in all federal government programs, initiatives and efforts afforded other U.S. commodities, with the objective of allowing U.S. producers to compete fairly in export markets. We look forward to working with the Commission and the grower communities to find ways to advance this important goal.
Working Together to Achieve Sensible, Effective Regulation of Tobacco Products, While Protecting Growers from Additional Governmental Requirements
PM USA agrees with the Commission that Congress should pass new legislation providing for additional regulation of tobacco products, including provisions that would give FDA specific authority over the design and manufacture of, and health-related communications about, cigarettes. Moreover, we support the enactment of additional Federal restrictions regarding cigarette advertising and distribution, that would codify and sensibly complement those contained in the State tobacco settlement agreements, in the hope of taking further strides in our national effort to combat the serious issue of youth smoking.
The Commission is correct in concluding that these measures can be taken without affecting the current regulatory regime that tobacco growers have become accustomed to complying with.
Here are some examples of the specific kinds of provisions that we hope to work with the Commission to achieve:
|Preserving the Current Role of USDA and EPA. We fully embrace the Commission’s proposal that USDA continue to have responsibility over the growing and production of tobacco, and that EPA should continue to regulate the use of pesticides on the farm. The regimes in place today involving these agencies are working well, and need not be disrupted. We also agree with the Commission that FDA is the most logical agency to regulate manufactured tobacco products and the companies that produce them. By carefully crafting appropriate legislation, Congress has the opportunity – in partnership with the States -- to create a coherent regulatory framework that will sensibly weave together the entire tobacco value chain – from the fields to the factories to the wide assortment of distribution channels.|
|Ensuring That Regulation Will Not Equal Prohibition. We are pleased that the Commission expressly notes in its preliminary report that the goal of new regulation should not be to ban tobacco products or their consumption by adults. As a responsible cigarette manufacturer, PM USA believes in the principle of adult choice. Cigarettes are a legal product that many adults enjoy despite the attendant risks. While it is appropriate for governments and health authorities to clearly identify health risks, and strongly encourage people to avoid harmful behaviors, we do not believe that they should prohibit adults from choosing to smoke. There are alternative approaches – including new product technologies – to reduce the overall harm related to smoking. We do not agree that the goal of any additional regulation should be to prevent adults who want to consume tobacco from doing so. Preventing minors’ usage – yes. Making sure that adults continue to have complete information as the science evolves – yes. Promoting cessation – yes. Seeking to develop reduced-risk products for adults who decide to smoke – yes. But, so long as society continues to respect the values of tolerance and freedom, it should not be the goal of FDA to dictate the choices about tobacco that any adult can make.|
|Encouraging the Development and Responsible Marketing of Reduced Risk Products. One of the Commission’s critical recommendations is that FDA should have the authority to evaluate the relative harmfulness of different products. PM USA is committed to developing and marketing products that may offer smokers reduced risks as compared to traditional cigarettes, and has been a leader in calling for FDA to play an important role in developing criteria that would have to be met in order for a tobacco product to be designated as "reduced risk," and to regulate the claims that manufacturers make about any product meeting such criteria. Just as public health officials would object to reduced-risk claims that they have not had the opportunity to validate, consumers should view skeptically claims about new technologies that have not been sensibly regulated. And, we are mindful of the critical need for manufacturers to work with the public health community so that mixed messages are not sent that would obscure the fact that all smoking can be harmful, and that the best option from a health perspective is to quit or not to start in the first place. We believe that the best approach is for FDA, and not a tobacco company, to decide what is in fact "reduced risk", and what communications are appropriate on this subject.|
|Regulating Cigarette Ingredients and Smoke Constituents. We think that FDA should be able to assure smokers that the ingredients added to cigarettes do not increase the existing health risks of smoking, including increasing addiction. We have already provided information about our cigarette ingredients to the Federal government and to consumers, and would support additional means of disclosure, as is the case for other consumer products, with the same confidential treatment of proprietary information related to the ingredients used in the "brand recipes" that give each brand its unique taste and flavor. Moreover, in addition to tar and nicotine, PM USA supports legislation that would enable FDA to require the disclosure of information about individual constituents in cigarette smoke that it believes would be meaningful to consumers, as long as the information can be generated according to a standardized and commercially feasible test method or reliably calculated on the basis of the test results.|
|Revising Health Warning Labels. Consistent with the Commission’s recommendations, PM USA supports granting FDA authority to revise the text of existing cigarette health warnings, and to determine the text of new ones.|
|Providing Cessation Assistance for Those Who Want It. We agree with the Commission that one legitimate area for FDA to be involved with is helping smokers quit who want to do so. Specifically, we think FDA should sponsor research into various cessation techniques, and recommend those that are found to be effective in assisting smokers who want to quit but are having difficulty.|
|Additional Measures to Combat Youth Smoking. Finally, although the 1998 settlement agreements with the states made significant progress in areas such as youth smoking prevention, there are areas that we and the public health community agree need to be addressed through additional federal regulation. For example, PM USA supports a national minimum age of 18 for the purchase of tobacco products, and we believe that cigarettes should not be sold unpacked, as single cigarettes. We also think that cigarettes should be sold in a face-to-face transaction, where age can be verified and access laws can be monitored and enforced. In addition, there would be substantial benefit if the advertising restrictions from the settlement agreements, which today are only binding upon the participating tobacco companies, were codified so that they apply equally to all industry participants. With significant input from the retailer community and the States where they operate, we think that Congress can and should do more in this area.|
PM USA looks forward to working with the Commission on completing its final report. Although these comments set forth some of our thinking on these matters, no one ought to attempt to dictate a solution to these complex issues; voices from across the political and economic spectrums – from the growers to the retailers, from the manufacturers to the public health community - need to be heard. By working together to find the common ground that unites us, we believe that the time is right to make substantial progress.
February 14, 2001