Former senator Robert J. Dole entered the nation’s war over tobacco and smoking Thursday, asserting that the Food and Drug Administration lacks authority to regulate tobacco as a drug and suggesting that smoking is not necessarily addictive.
Floating down the Ohio River on a paddleboat near Louisville, Ky., in the heart of tobacco country earlier Thursday, Dole was asked about a statement last month by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., his Kentucky campaign chairman, who said that as president Dole would rescind any FDA measures to regulate tobacco.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee did not answer the question directly, but declared that the FDA does not have the authority “to do what they want to do now.” He went on to say he supports measures to discourage smoking by children, for example by eliminating cigarette vending machines.
“But I think the more serious question is whether the FDA has the jurisdiction,” Dole said. “And, in fact, if they should claim jurisdiction and determine that cigarettes are a drug, then you in effect are banning cigarettes and production of tobacco. So it’s going to affect a lot of people.”
“Is it addictive?” Dole added. “To some people, smoking is addictive. To others they can take it or leave it. Most people don’t smoke at all. I hope children never start. I wish the FDA would spend a little more time on medical devices, including new drugs, that would help.”