Paging Paraclesus: Must FDA Regulate Tobacco, Too?

Remember the famous old quote of Paraclesus, the father of risk-benefit analysis and toxicology: "All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities; it is only the dose which makes a thing poison" I would love to see smoking banned.  It took my dad's life, prematurely; during the last year of his life, even when he was in the hospital, we'd find him sneaking out, IV trailer and all, to have a little puff in the garden. But a ban would never work. Seven years after Congress ruled that tobacco was outside of FDA's purview, the issue has come back, with the suggestion that FDA set limits that would reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, and that advertisements be very strictly regulated. The issue is being widely debated in the press and discussed on numerous blog sites.  FDA is sidestepping the issue of setting safe limits.  Understandably.  If the Agency's role is to approve safe foods and medications, its only viable position would be to ban cigarettes outright, since they are never safe and do not offer any benefit to health.  They could also ban the use of the dangerous additives used in cigarettes. How could FDA determine what level of an inherently unsafe substance that neither nourishes nor cures a disease is "safe?" If it does this for cigarettes, then, it  could then in theory do this for all poisons. Human beings can and do survive after swallowing gasoline (as those ridiculous filling station signs remind us every day).  Is it up to FDA to establish safe limits for gasoline ingestion? Cigarettes are not a food, and, unlike cytotoxic chemotherapy agents that offer a cure along with the poison; they offer no "benefit" to weigh against their risk.  Besides, the Agency is already struggling with drug and food safety. Couldn't it be given the opportunity to do some, or all, of the complex tasks entailed, well? Or else be given approval to hire more people and receive millions of additional funding dollars? The last thing it would appear to need is another mandate for such a broad-based program. Perhaps this could, instead, be done by the Surgeon General's office in connection with DTF or some other government agency?  AP recently reported on FDA's Commissioner Andrew Von Eschenbach's position regarding regulating tobacco (access video here).  Below, a discussion of the proposed regulation.

Play Video

Tobacco- Part 1 - Bloomberg

Bloomberg - (BLOOM)

Mar. 02, 2007. 05:48 PM EST

Play Video

Tobacco (end) - Bloomberg

Bloomberg - (BLOOM)

Mar. 02, 2007. 05:53 PM EST

(Or maybe FDA and DTF could simply collaborate, as a writer in The Onion proposed a few years back.)