The Senate yesterday defeated the only real obstacle to passing a bill regulating tobacco under the Food and Drug Administration. I've written for years (in 2006, in 2007 , in 2008, in 2009) about a fact that was long ignored: that Philip Morris supports this bill. Philip Morris' support of this bill should not be surprising: regulation always adds to overhead, disproportionately affecting smaller business; advertising restrictions kill start-up brands; he with the best lobbyists and lawyers (and most campaign contributions) usually works his way best through the rules and gets the most friendly details in the regulations.
Indeed, when this bill passed, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) got away with telling the Washington Post that "big tobacco" had defeated it, despite the public and vigorous lobbying for its passage by Philip Morris, which controls about half of the entire U.S. cigarette market.
Today, Slate has an intriguing piece on one angle of this bill, called the "Marlboro Monopoly Act of 2009" by other tobacco companies. The piece discusses the ban on flavored cigarettes--a ban that conspicuously exempts menthols. The Slate article is a must read, especially if you want to be disabused of the folly that federal regulation is about curbing big business excesses.