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FDA Rules for Cigarettes Are a Victory for Public Health, for Science (and for the Earth’s Climate?)

The tobacco industry pioneered the art of attacking scientific research that undermined corporate interests. Strong evidence linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer appeared in multiple 1950 studies. Just a few years later, the industry began manufacturing a new product: doubt. For more than a generation, tobacco companies systemically derided public health research on the harms of smoking, fighting science with uncertainty and confusion.

Some six decades later, cigarette smoking causes about 443,000 deaths every year in this country, about 20 percent of the U.S. population smokes, and every day 1,000 young people pick up the habit.

That’s why the Food and Drug Administration issued new rules today banning cigarette company marketing tactics designed for getting their product into the hands of youth. The FDA authority comes from legislation passed last year that for the first time allowed the agency to regulate “unregulated drug delivery systems.”

The intellectual heirs of this strategy to defend corporate interests by assaulting science are the polluter-driven deniers of climate change research. And at the moment, climate scientists are under heavy assault.

The hopeful lesson from the new FDA rules is that no amount of corporate funding can suffocate the science indefinitely. But we shouldn’t have to wait 60 years to act on what we know about climate change. The impacts are already very real.

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