business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB took note yesterday of a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban of the sale of flavored cigarettes, a move that the New York Times wrote is “intended to end the sale of tobacco products with chocolate, vanilla, clove and other flavorings that lure children and teenagers into smoking. The agency will study regulating menthol products and hinted that it might soon take action against the far larger market of flavored small cigars and cigarillos.” The ban takes place under new legislation that gives the FDA the ability to regulate the tobacco industry.

In my commentary, I noted that an MNB user had sent me the story with a note suggesting that this is “the new Prohibition,” and that I should be happy because it just what I wanted.

And I wrote: This isn’t Prohibition. This is trying to save the lives of the some 3,600 children and teenagers who start smoking every day, more than a thousand of whom then become daily smokers. But you’re right. I am happy. Because of we can save some of these lives, it’s been a good day.

And it amazes me that anyone other than a tobacco company executive might feel differently.

Well, the emails rolled in…

One MNB user wrote:

That is the most stupid opinion in the world even though it is shared by so many. I’m really getting tired of not saying so as to just blow it off as really idiotic. I think more of us should start calling idiots, “Idiots” when it applies so clearly as in this case.

Kevin, Why not ban hang gliding, sky diving and small-prop plane flying? I wonder how many lives you and your little “do-gooders” will save then. Boy that will really make you feel important. Then you could say, “See, look at what my great idea did for all you idiots. Hey wait, you morons should put me in charge of more stuff for smart people”.

Congrats on being the chosen one, selected to be there as our personal guide through all of our lives and prevent us from killing ourselves so recklessly all the time.

Here’s an idea. MIND YOUR OWN (expletive) BUSINESS!!!!

If I want to smoke cotton candy cigarettes and kill myself eventually, that’s my right to do so.

And no, don’t worry; I won’t need your Obama Care to patch me up either, thank you. I’ll happily make my own bed and sleep in it.


You lose.

Though I would have posted it even if you hadn’t dared me. Just like I’m going to post pretty much all the critical emails I got.

MNB user Gregg Knorn wrote:

I'm not a tobacco company executive or even a smoker. What I am is a freedom loving American. All this ruling does is further illustrate how big government is intruding into our lives. What's next, banning peach flavored vodka or root beer schnapps because the flavor appeals to kids?

Everyone knows cigarettes are bad for you. Making them flavored doesn't change that fact. It's hypocritical of the FDA to ban flavored cigarettes but not regular cigarettes. You said yourself that, "3,600 children and teenagers...start smoking every day." They're starting with unflavored cigarettes so obviously flavor isn't the contributing factor in whether or not a kids starts smoking. Ban fatty foods, ban cigarettes, government forces you to wear a seatbelt or a motorcycle helmet, soon the government will want to ban alcohol again. Then we'll all be healthy, boring, robots. I'd prefer to have choice in the matter.

Several emails used a quote from Martin Niemöller, the anti-Nazi theologian, in their messages, just as this MNB user did:

”First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

The original Prohibition started out with saving lives and promoting general health. I hope you're still around when it comes full circle and the lives cost by alcohol is the rallying cry once again.

Another MNB user wrote:

Interesting you would say that " it amazes you that anyone other than a tobacco company executive might feel differently". I know you do work with NACS and as such should know that there is really not a C-store model out there today that exists profitably without the cigarette and tobacco categories in their stores. NACS and its members have a vested interest in the health of the category and while many chains have strived to find the category that can replace the profitability derived by cigarettes and tobacco, none have found a 30% of inside sales replacement.

I don't usually take the time to respond to comments but I think it is important to point out there are many in the wholesale and retail supply chain outside of "tobacco company executives" that feel the government (local, state and federal) is overreaching in it's tax policies, smoking bans and the banning of products. There are many in the anti-tobacco movement that are pushing for prohibition and whether you agree with your reader or not, it is by definition, prohibition.

Food and beverage companies are just beginning to feel the threat of the nannyism and the nannies that exist solely to have their nose in someone else's business. These nannyists have honed their skills on the tobacco industry and they are looking for new avenues to harvest money and line their pockets.

MNB user Scott J. Proch wrote:

I'm happy, too, KC. But not totally overjoyed yet. This administration still needs to:

1. Illegalize flavored potato chips (because they're bad for you and teenager like them)
2. Illegalize wine coolers, flavored vodka, Bailey's Irish Cream etc. (because they're bad for you and teenagers like them)
3. Illegalize flavored pop (because they're bad for you and kids like them)
4. Illegalize fast cars (because they could lead to driving fast and teenager like them)

You get the idea.

Another MNB user wrote:

I used to be in the tobacco business. Last year Congress drafted legislation to ban all flavored cigarettes saying that it made the product too attractive to minors. Fair enough. But then a certain segment of legislators "realized" that this would mean the end of menthol cigarettes. You may be unaware that black people consume menthol cigarettes at a nearly 3 to 1 rate compared to non-black. The legislation died. But then the FDA was given control over regulating tobacco. The FDA has now banned flavored cigarettes with the exception of menthol. Black people vote. Kids don't.

Maybe there is a connection, maybe not. I am not trying to sound racially biased. I do want you to know that this does sound a bit like Val Kilmer's portrayal of Doc in Tombstone... But which line to pick? "My hypocrisy only goes so far!" or "My hypocrisy knows no bounds!"...

MNB user Jim Donegan wrote:

My son is quitting cigarettes by using clove cigarettes as a “step-down” interim step to eliminate the tobacco cravings but keep him occupied and away from real cigarettes. There are other uses for clove cigarettes than turning people on to tobacco. And he didn’t start with flavored or clove cigarettes. The timing of this decision is unfortunate.

Not everyone was critical of the ban, however.

One MNB user wrote:

I see no problem with this or banning flavored cigars. I actually quit selling flavored cigarettes, cigars and cigarette papers in the store. I was astonished at the amount of under age kids that had people of age buying these for them. I was told that it wasn’t to smoke; it was to cut open and fill with crack cocaine. It also made you aware of who was doing drugs, who not to hire because of what they bought etc. One more reason that I don’t miss retail.

MNB user Rosanne Sparks wrote:

Hopefully the rest will follow. My mother started smoking as a young teen, and while there wasn’t the allure of a flavor, there was some allure. She died 12 years ago at the age of 63 of lung cancer. It’s a good day if a few more packs don’t get into the hands of a teen.

And still another MNB user wrote:

I could not agree with you more on this one, Kevin.

I lost a son at a relatively young age as a result of lung cancer. He had quit cigarettes a few years earlier but obviously too late. Problem is most smokers feel invincible and think, well that person might be a statistic but not me. There is no doubt in my mind that smoking contributed to his death. If lives are saved because laws are enacted it will save families from a lot grief.

Anybody that has lost a loved one as a result of smoking will certainly agree.

Yet another MNB user wrote:

I agree with your correspondent - this is Prohibition - which was also inspired by self-righteous social engineers, who sought to improve health and productivity by banning substances they didn't like.

If - as you seem to think - the ends justify the means, then we should simply ban soft drinks outright as lacking any health benefit, and causing tooth decay and obesity.

Your supermarket and soft drink sponsors will be happy to fund that campaign, I'm sure.

I actually don’t write a lot about the tobacco industry, in part because I have no objectivity. I’ve made this point numerous times over the last eight years on MNB, but because we get 75-100 new subscribers each week, it’s possible that some of you aren’t aware of it.

In fact, I make no pretense at objectivity. Even though it means that sometimes I might annoy occasional clients and potential sponsors.

Perhaps the best gift my mother gave her grandchildren was the opportunity to watch her die eleven years ago of cancer. She was in her mid-sixties, and had finally quit smoking after more than three decades of being addicted and many attempts at kicking the habit. The cancer spread from her lungs to her brain and pretty much everywhere else, and while she fought for four years – my mother was a tough broad – it finally claimed her. It wasn't pretty. Best I know, none of my kids ever have smoked, and I suspect they never will. The memory is burned into their brains.

I do not hold anyone other than her responsible for her death. Behavior has consequences. But I do know that there is ample proof that cigarettes are engineered to addict and kill people. Unlike sugary soft drinks, or beer, or wine, or fast cars, or pretty much any other comparison you care to make. Which is why they should be treated differently. And why any company that tries to entice kids into thinking that somehow smoking is cool or harmless ought to be stopped. That’s not prohibition. That’s common sense.

And by the way, we have plenty of laws designed to protect kids. It’s why they can’t drive until a certain age and cannot drink alcohol until a certain age. It’s why we say they have to stay in school until they reach a certain age, and cannot get married before a certain age. They’re not even supposed to buy cigarettes until a certain age.

That’s not a violation of civil liberties. That’s common sense.

However, you are all welcome to your opinions, and you are even encouraged to air them here on MNB. (You don't even have to dare me to post it. I post lots of emails that I disagree with, even the ones that call me an idiot and a moron. Which may actually make me an idiot and a moron, but what the hell.)
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