When Senator John McCain introduced FDA regulatory legislation in 1998, the company spent a reported $100 million successfully fighting it. But since then, Philip Morris has had a crucial realization. With 50% of the U.S. tobacco market already safely in the company's pocket — including the more than 50% of 18-to-25-year-olds loyal to its top brand, Marlboro — restrictive legislation will effectively lock in its market dominance, preventing any competitors from taking a bite out of Philip Morris's very lucrative business.
This support of increased government oversight, which Philip Morris first endorsed in 2001, has given even some backers of the bill pause. "It is a concern that the tobacco industry is involved" in the legislation, admits David Burns, a leading tobacco researcher who has testified in court that "light" cigarettes are no less harmful than regular ones and conducted studies for the World Health Organization and U.S. government. Big Tobacco "has a very dark and aggressive history of trying to change both science and public policy to its economic favor," he says.