A recent decision by the Office of Management and Budget is being viewed by some critics of President Reagan as another White House attempt to resist making health-hazard warning labels on cigarette packs more prominent.
Using its power under the Paperwork Reduction Act, OMB has refused to allow the Federal Trade Commission to distribute a survey that the FTC said it needed to determine how large the warning messages should be.
The budget office said the FTC hadn't proven that the "information which would be collected is necessary to meet its statutory obligations." In a supporting memo, OMB added that the "FTC doesn't know what it's trying to do. (Or at least won't admit it in the supporting statement.) They say they are trying to find ' . . . the best size for a health warning . . . ,' but they don't know what the best means. They seem to want to make the warning more noticeable, and yet not detract from the advertising message."
The fervor with which the budget office attacked the FTC's request has caused proponents of stronger warnings to question whether the White House played a role in the decision, a charge OMB denies. The administration originally endorsed legislation that would make warnings on cigarette packs much more specific by stressing the dangers of emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease and risks that cigarette smoking may carry for unborn children. When the tobacco industry responded in force, the White House retreated and weakened its endorsement. Critics claim that OMB's decision could be another peace offering to tobacco interests.