transformed. A widespread popular consensus in favor of aggressive policy initiatives is now emerging, and this shift in popular sentiment has also been accompanied by support across most of the political spectrum.
From a policy standpoint, many analysts think of the tobacco problem as a product safety problem. In an economic and social system that values freedom of choice, consumers are generally permitted to select products and activities as they see fit. If they want to assume risks, they are permitted to do exactly that. Government does not guarantee absolute safety, nor should it. Of course, some dangers are too high to be acceptable. So long as consumers are properly informed, however, the presumption has traditionally been in favor of consumer sovereignty and freedom of choice. Yet, even most libertarians will admit that the tobacco market has been characterized by severe market failures, as noted above. They acknowledge the legitimacy of interventions aiming to prevent youth smoking, to disseminate accurate information and correct misinformation, and to assure that nonsmokers are protected from involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke if the market does not function properly. The residual issue concerns the legitimacy of interventions that burden the choices of the minority of smokers who do not want to quit.
The notion of consumer sovereignty—of unambivalent respect for private choices—runs into serious difficulty when the underlying product creates serious long-term harms and has addictive properties, when its use is usually initiated by young people who lack a full and vivid appreciation of the associated risks, and when most users want to quit. Even in such circumstances, consumer sovereignty should not be abandoned but must be rethought to take account of the unique characteristics of tobacco products.
Cigarettes and other tobacco products are not ordinary consumer products. For no other lawful consumer product can it be said that the acknowledged aim of national policy is to suppress consumption. The committee’s major goal here is to set forth a framework for reducing tobacco use, and its associated morbidity and mortality, while being duly respectful of the interests of consumers who choose to smoke and do not want to quit.
The committee makes 42 recommendations in the report, 22 regarding ways to strengthen traditional tobacco control measures and 20 regarding the new regulatory landscape. This summary highlights 19 key recommendations that represent the major components of the committee’s blueprint for ending the tobacco problem. A listing of all 42 recommendations organized by chapter can be found at the end of this summary.
The first prong of the committee’s blueprint assumes that the existing legal structure of tobacco control remains unchanged. It envisions steps