An intended commentary about the regulatory prospects and road ahead for tobacco under the new incoming presidential administration fell victim - as did so many publishing plans - to the election cliffhanger in Florida. When days turned to weeks, it was apparent that slipping the final results into this bimonthly magazine "just under the wire" simply wasn't going to happen. While the candidates may not have run out of time, I unfortunately have. So, by the time you read this, the big question will have been answered (presumably, although if I owned a farm, I would still be reluctant to ante it up in any bets at this point). So please accept the responsibility of guest editor for a moment and fill in the blank: And the winner is...

  • Bush (skip to "Republican White House")
  • Gore (skip to "Democratic White House")
  • There is only one correct answer. Do not vote twice. Do not appeal. And please, pick up your chads, dangling or otherwise. It's over. The question now is, what lies ahead for the tobacco industry under the new administration?
Republican White House Sanford C. Bernstein analysts summed it up: A George W. Bush presidency would be a "strong positive for the tobacco sector." Here's why:
  • Opposes Department of Justice lawsuit against cigarette makers. Would likely seek a dismissal.
  • Has slammed the idea of increasing federal taxes on cigarettes. "We have recognized that there are some adults, once properly warned, who choose to smoke," Bush said in the Raleigh News & Observer.
  • Supports tort reform limiting plaintiff's ability to sue manufacturers of potentially harmful products (the basis of tobacco liability litigation.)
Democratic White House While in days past Al Gore had reached out to tobacco farmers, his tune has changed, leaving little doubt to his allegiance, at least during the last year's campaign.
  • Supports legislation empowering the FDA to regulate cigarettes.
  • Likely to further regulate marketing and sale of cigarettes.
  • Likely to seek financial retribution from the tobacco industry to pay for presumed health problems its products caused.

Despite this potential agenda, a Gore win is described by Bernstein Research as "only a temporary setback," and feels his influence would be limited to future composition of the U.S. Supreme Court and backing of the D.O.J. lawsuit.

Most tobacconists will find their day-to-day business affected more by local and state legislation than from actions originating in the White House, but clearly the industry as whole will have much to celebrate under a Bush-Cheney Republican administration.

E. Edward Hoyt III