Is McCain Backing Away From His Pledge To Regulate The Tobacco Industry?

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a landmark bill that would “empower the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the tobacco industry” and allow regulators to demand the “elimination of other hazardous ingredients in cigarettes.”

The bill, which provoked a veto-threat from the White House, mirrors a failed 1998 proposal spearheaded by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). McCain’s bill sought to give the federal government unprecedented oversight over the tobacco industry and led many Republicans to caricature the legislation as a “very liberal, big government, big bureaucracy, not a Republican bill.”

McCain responded by pledging to “never” give up on the effort — promising to “hold tobacco companies liable for their efforts to endanger children” — and publicly praising the regulatory nature of the legislation:

Nicotine and tobacco products will now be subject to broad regulatory and oversight by the Food and Drug Administration and the industry will be required to pay over $500 billion to settle claims and fund vital anti-smoking and related health care initiatives…Second, our goal is to insure that nicotine and tobacco products are regulated by the FDA to protect public health. [News Conference, 3/20/1998]


But McCain may now be backing away from his pledge to regulate the industry. While still officially a sponsor of the Senate version of the latest tobacco bill, McCain has suggested that he “won’t commit to voting for it until he sees the final legislation” and regularly belittles government regulation on the campaign trail:

– Again, we get back to Senator Obama believes that big government is the answer — government is the answer. He’ll raise your taxes. He will increase regulation. [Town Hall, 7/10/2008]

– So I think it really has to do — the fundamental difference is our view of the role of government in America. Everything he has supported is bigger government, more regulation, higher taxes, et cetera. And I am a very proud conservative that believes in less government, in our nation’s security, and lower taxes, and a government that basically only intervenes in people’s lives when every other avenue has been exhausted. [Town Hall, 7/7/2008]

– I was one of many newly elected members who claimed with pride to be disciples of Ronald Reagan. I am as proud of that distinction today as I was then… I think all Reagan Republicans would describe the core values of a conservative as…opposition to unnecessary government regulation; and lastly, and very importantly, belief that the government that governs best governs least. [Reagan Library, 6/23/2006]