In the movie, title character Forrest Gump is celebrating New Year’s Eve in a grungy New York dive bar. A hooker kisses him hard on the lips. His face scrunches up. “You taste like cigarettes,” he sputters.
Prostitutes aren’t the only ones who reek of smoke. In a recent House of Representatives vote, 112 politicians (including San Diego Republicans Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa) voted against giving regulation of tobacco products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The bill passed the House with 298 yea votes, is expected to clear the Senate and President Obama says he will not veto it, as President Bush had threatened to do.
The best, though still weak, excuse for a no vote is that the FDA is already too busy. This silliness ignores that smoking is the number-one cause of preventable death in the United States, and costs the nation nearly $100 billion a year in health care bills.
Oversight will allow the FDA to monitor the marketing and manufacturing of cigarettes. Even if some people decide to ignore the risks of smoking, the FDA could regulate the levels of tar, nicotine and nearly 50 other cigarette components that are known to cause cancer.
Meanwhile, reports are still hazy about the new e-cigs. These electronic cigarettes—touted as eerily similar to good old fashioned cancer sticks—produce smoke when you inhale the filtered essence of liquid nicotine. Manufacturers and some scientists say they don’t cause cancer. The FDA is currently trying to ban U.S. sales of e-cigs, until more research of long-term effects can be done.
Making all kinds of cigarettes safer is a sound idea. It’s still worth noting, though, that ol’ Forrest Gump, a character with substandard intelligence but basic common sense, knows better than to start smoking in the first place.
Ron Donoho, formerly executive editor of "San Diego Magazine," is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com who covers local news, sports, culture and happy hours.