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The Hypocrisy of Senator Dick Durbin’s Stance on Tobacco

Filed in News & Politics by on May 14, 2012

Just when it seemed legislative nit-picking and hypocrisy in the tobacco arena had reached a pinnacle, Dick Durbin, an Illinois Senator and Assistant Majority Leader, has managed to push the ridiculousness even further. Dissatisfied with Big Tobacco’s response to the banning of flavored cigarettes, Senator Durbin has proposed an addition to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. His proposal? Include cigars in the ban on flavored tobacco. He states, “Cigars with candy-like flavorings such as strawberry, watermelon, vanilla and chocolate are marketed to young people, and get them hooked on this deadly and addictive habit at a young age. This provision encourages the FDA to assert its authority and take the necessary steps to curb the use of these dangerous products”.

Have no fear, you hordes of teens developing an addiction to watermelon-flavored cigars; Senator Dick Durbin is here! This addition to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act is only slightly more arbitrary than the act itself. Few would argue that the majority of adult cigarette smokers picked up the habit as teens, but finding one whose pack-a-day proclivity began with chocolate-flavored cigarettes may be difficult…and it’s not because a loving and infiltrative government kept flavored cigs out of the their tobacco-stained little fingers.

While it’s true that teens consume more flavored tobacco products than their adult counterparts, their Flavor of Choice is not found on the candy shelf (or in the watermelon patch). Kids like menthol; due in part to its anesthetic properties which make their first experience with a cigarette smoother and less irritating. In fact, teens like menthol so much that one study revealed about half of teen smokers smoke menthol cigarettes. But Senator Dick Durbin makes no mention of menthol in his Save Our Kids from Big Tobacco diatribe. In fact, it was through his skilled negotiations between Phillip Morris and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids that menthol was granted immunity from the Family Smoking Prevention Act in the first place.

From an electronic cigarette industry standpoint, these backdoor politics can be maddening. Senator Durbin’s demand to abolish flavored cigars only further emphasizes Big Government’s intention to protect Big Tobacco’s interests. It seems increasingly unlikely that any legislative body will give the green light to a product, like e-cigs, which may encroach on tobacco profits…regardless of the human cost.


Commentary by Julie Warshaw




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