The Hightower Report

Rein in Big Tobacco; and Bush Seizes More Power


The Food and Drug Administration regulates the contents of aspirin, potato chips … even dog food. But this safety watchdog has neither bite nor bark when it comes to setting standards for the deadliest product in our society: tobacco.

This highly addictive drug hooks children, kills some 340,000 Americans every year, sickens nonsmokers who merely are around the fumes, and adds billions of dollars in costs to our heath-care system. Yet, thanks to Big Tobacco's campaign donations and lobbyists, the White House and Congress have refused to require FDA regulation of this killer product, allowing corporate profits to trump public health.

There are easy steps the corporations could take to reduce the addictive and carcinogenic power of their products. Far from reducing the killer contents, however, cigarette makers have deliberately been juicing up the potency of their cancer sticks. A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health finds that the amount of addictive nicotine that cigarettes pump into the lungs of smokers jumped by 11% from 1998 to 2005.

With no regulators to restrain them, the corporations have merrily added higher-nicotine tobacco to cigarettes and – get this – modified cigarette design so smokers take more puffs from each one! In other words, they have carelessly made their products a greater danger.

This year, however, the new democratic majority in Congress has a chance to rein in these runaway greedheads by putting tobacco products under FDA regulation. Sen. Ted Kennedy has proposed legislation allowing the FDA to crack down on tobacco advertising (especially ads that target children) and to regulate the contents and design of cigarettes to reduce their harm to smokers and those around them.

Tobacco corporations literally are sucking the life out of people. To learn more about Kennedy's bill, call his office: 202/224-4543.


Oh, swell. George W. is assigning a political nanny to every agency in the federal government.

In a new directive, Czar Bush says that each agency must henceforth create a regulatory policy office to be headed by a political appointee chosen by … him. This nanny is to make sure that agency scientists and regulators comply with Bush's "priorities." Of course, George's regulatory priority is not to have any regulations – at least none that his corporate cronies find in any way objectionable.

Could it be that this is just a reconstructed spoils system to deliver regulatory favors to Bush's corporate backers? Oh, no, no, says the Bushite in charge of the new nanny brigade: "This is a classic good-government measure." I spewed my drink right out of my nose when I heard that one! These guys are to "good government" what a coyote is to good sheep management.

We're talking about our health, safety, clean air, and other essentials. Over the years, Congress has empowered various agencies to protect us from drug companies, chemical explosions, polluters, and other corporate abusers. But now, by executive fiat, Bush and Company have installed political overseers to protect these corporations from having to comply with our protections.

Last fall, millions of Americans – a majority of us – voted to reinstate the rule of law, to rein in a runaway, autocratic executive. But, like some tinhorn potentate who simply rewrites rules to suit his own needs, Bush not only thinks he's above the law – he thinks he is the law.

Of course, his corporate backers are thrilled. As one said, "Because of the executive order, regulations will be less onerous and more reasonable." Hey, "more reasonable" for whom? Besides, Bonzo, regulations are supposed to be onerous! If they're meek, the corporate giants will just ignore them – and, of course, that's exactly what George has in mind.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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Food and Drug Administration, Big Tobacco, Harvard School of Public Health, Ted Kennedy, George W. Bush

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