ANNAPOLIS – The Tobacco Institute calls the proposed law a “solution in search of a problem.” But cigarette industry critics want Maryland to ban spiked cigarettes.
Spiking increases a cigarette’s nicotine content by adding to or manipulating its ingredients. The issue surfaced last year in allegations to federal regulators that manufacturers were trying to produce nicotine addicts among the nation’s smokers.
Tobacco lobbyists told the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee, which heard testimony on the proposal Tuesday, that no law was necessary because the practice doesn’t exist.
“The opposition is not based on the fact that there is any company that has in the past, is currently, or ever will be…spiking cigarettes,” said Bill Pitcher, a lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute.
Pitcher said those favoring the bill were “creating the impression something is going on that isn’t.” And even after years of searching, he said, anti-smoking forces still couldn’t name any investigating agency with evidence of spiking.
Anti-smoking lobbyists said the tobacco industry can and does spike, but that the companies have carefully developed and protected their methods.
State Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, the bill’s sponsor, said it would protect a smoker’s right to quit. Under the measure, “Tobacco companies may not manipulate people by manipulating nicotine,” Frosh said.
Scott Ballin, American Heart Association vice president for public affairs, said state and federal governments should set manfacturing, sales, distribution, labeling and marketing standards on cigarettes because cigarettes are being manufactured as drugs.
Ballin said the industry has been in the drug business a long time and attempts to deny it “fly in the face of every major medical organization in this country.”
A statement issued by Tobacco Institute Vice President Walker Merryman said the bill would establish impermissible state regulation of cigarettes.
“If Maryland can prescribe standards for cigarettes sold in Maryland, so can every other state,” Merryman said. “Such a system of state-by-state regulation would make interstate commerce impossible.”
– That over the years, nicotine levels have been reduced with the reduction of tar.
– There is no level of nicotine common to all tobacco.
– In general, nicotine is lost from tobacco during the manufacturing process.
State Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset, said although he was opposed to spiking, he hadn’t made up his mind about the bill.
“I think we need to get [nicotine] under control,” Stoltzfus said after the hearing. “However, it is a legal poduct and I’m not one who likes to impose regulations on legal products. “I want to look at the issues. Sen. Frosh came around and talked to me about it…we’re going to talk some more.” -30-