Jun. 24 2015
WASHINGTON, DC – For the second time in a week, members of Congress are using an appropriations bill to protect the tobacco industry at the expense of America’s kids and health, this time by slashing funding for the CDC’s highly effective programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.
On Wednesday, the full House Appropriations Committee will consider the bill to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which includes funding for the CDC. The bill cuts funding for the CDC’s modestly-funded tobacco control programs by more than half to only $105.5 million in fiscal 2016.
It makes no sense to cut the CDC’s tobacco prevention and cessation programs given tobacco’s terrible toll on our nation in health, lives and health care dollars. Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year. It costs our nation about $170 billion a year in health care bills, more than 60 percent of which is paid by taxpayers through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. It is truly irresponsible to cut programs that protect children, save lives and reduce these costs.
The proposed cut would make it virtually impossible for the CDC to continue its Tips from Former Smokers media campaign that has proved very cost-effective at helping smokers quit. In its first year alone (2012), the campaign helped over 100,000 smokers to quit permanently and saved about 17,000 people from a premature death, according to a December 2014 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Equally troubling, a committee report accompanying the appropriations bill states, “The Committee does not provide support for CDC’s tobacco research activity.” This language is deeply harmful as the CDC’s research provides the nation’s primary measurements of rates of tobacco use and of death and disease caused by tobacco use. The CDC’s research recently alerted us to the alarming increase in youth use of electronic cigarettes, which is exactly what the agency should be doing. Only the tobacco industry benefits from suppressing this critical scientific information about the harm caused by its products. This language in the committee’s report is a gift to the tobacco industry.
This is the second House appropriations bill in less than a week that has protected the interests and profits of the tobacco industry. Last week, an appropriations subcommittee included a provision in the bill funding the FDA that significantly weakens that agency’s ability to protect children from e-cigarettes, cigars and other products the FDA is seeking to regulate. That provision would exempt the e-cigarettes and cigars that are already on the market, including many in kid-friendly flavors such as gummy bear, cotton candy and watermelon, from critical product review requirements.
These appropriations bills target the two agencies most responsible for reducing tobacco use in the United States by cutting funding or restricting authority over tobacco products. Congress should not give the industry what it wants and should instead protect our nation’s children and health.