Marlboro Man: Basic Merit in FDA Regulation

Altria – the company formerly known as Philip Morris – is spreading its wings and reaching across the aisle this year, according to this morning’s Roll Call. The newspaper reports today that 39 percent of Altria’s donations have gone to Democrats this cycle so far, a major increase from its usual 25 percent. Why? They’re pursuing an interesting new political strategy that flies in the face of Philip Morris thinking over the past decade, and they’re betting the Democrats will be more than happy to oblige them.

Philip Morris has opposed regulation by the Food and Drug Administration for years, executing a strategy to keep cigarettes from being regulated as drugs – and suffer the marketing restrictions that would be placed upon them under the FDA umbrella. As the tobacco industry’s formerly formidable position in the world (and in Congress) begins to degrade, however, they’re thinking outside the (hard pack) box.

The new theory: if the FDA takes the reins and predictably cracks down on tobacco advertising, market shares in the U.S. will essentially freeze in place – leaving Philip Morris and its stable of brands at the top while impairing the ability of any other manufacturers from knocking them down.

The spin: it would promote greater consistency in tobacco policy and help foster tobacco buyout legislation to help farmers.

The roadblocks: Republicans aren’t generally supportive of more federal regulation (except. for. certain. things.); Altria has been asking Republicans to fight FDA regulation for years now, and some Members may not be willing to do a one-eighty.

The solution: reach across the aisle, hoping Democrats will (predictably) come through and federally regulate the hell out of them.

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