Jacob Sullum

Under that deal, the top five cigarette companies -- including the ones that are now complaining about Philip Morris' efforts to protect its market share through FDA regulation -- agreed to give up some marketing techniques (including billboards and promotional clothing) and to pay the states billions of dollars every year. They funded the payments by raising their prices, secure in the knowledge that the states would prevent nonparticipating companies from gaining market share by underselling them.

Higher prices due to reduced competition were counted as a benefit of the agreement, encouraging smokers to quit and deterring teenagers from picking up the habit. The fact that smokers themselves might prefer cheaper cigarettes did not matter to the attorneys general who negotiated the deal.

Likewise, Waxman's bill pays no heed to smokers' preferences regarding cigarette flavors, prices (which the regulatory burden and limits on competition would tend to drive up), nicotine levels (which the FDA would be empowered to reduce), safer cigarettes (which the FDA could keep off the market if it thought they would encourage people to continue smoking) or information on the relative hazards of different tobacco products (which the FDA would be authorized to censor). While he seems determined to make Philip Morris happy, Waxman does not seem to care what consumers want. Or rather, he cares, but he wants to make sure they don't get it.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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