It’s easy to wonder why a company like Phillip Morris, the largest tobacco producer in the US and one of the largest in the world, would be so friendly towards tobacco regulation. Their page on tobacco regulation is a mix of public health altruism and vague euphemisms that might lead one to believe it’s nothing more than a PR campaign to build goodwill among the general public.
But a PR campaign to say “we’re team players who will accept regulation for the greater good” does not explain the fact that Altira, Phillip Morris’ parent company, not only actively lobbies for such regulation, including the recently passed bill allowing for massive FDA oversight of the tobacco industry, but also is the second most active lobbying organization in the US. What’s going on?
Turns out Phillip Morris stands to lose more from competition than from regulation. Regulation almost always benefits the industry incumbents by raising barriers to entry for newcomers and raising operating costs across the board, hurting all but those who are already the best equipped to handle it – in this case, Phillip Morris. Far from being a sweeping victory in the name of public health, this regulation amounts to nothing more than thinly veiled corporate protectionism.