Jul. 15 1997
Washington, DC - Today, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee took action on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Tobacco Rule, and the result was extremely disappointing. The failure to give states adequate funding for this important youth access provision is a troubling sign about Congress’ commitment to protect children from deadly tobacco products. Today’s action demonstrates that when forced to choose between our kids or tobacco, the Senate Subcommittee has put the deadly interests of Big Tobacco first. The Clinton Administration requested $34 million to be used primarily for grants to state agencies to enforce the FDA Rule provision requiring that stores check the photo identification of anyone attempting to buy tobacco products who appears younger than 27 years of age. By allocating only $4.9 million for this program, the Subcommittee has virtually incapacitated the FDA’s effort -- the first national program ever undertaken to reduce youth access to tobacco. Today’s failure to protect kids from tobacco could not have come at a worse time, as smoking among high school seniors is at a 17-year high. A review of 13 studies of over-the-counter sales found that minors can illegally buy cigarettes a disturbing 67 percent of the time. A recent poll reveals that 87 percent of Americans agree with the FDA policy of setting a national minimum age of 18 for the purchase of tobacco products and mandating ID checks of all tobacco purchasers who appear to be under age 27. Nearly two-thirds believe the federal government should provide money to the states to enforce rules prohibiting stores from selling tobacco to minors. And 33 state Attorneys General recently sent a letter to Congress in support of the FDA’s request for $34 million, indicating that this funding is critical to our country’s success in reducing tobacco use by youth. If Congress is serious about keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors, it must be reflected in its budget priorities. We are confident that as more Members of Congress realize the importance of stopping youth access to tobacco, our children will eventually win this fight. To this end, the CAMPAIGN will continue its ongoing efforts to ensure that the FDA receives full funding for its tobacco initiative so that it is able to implement the program as designed.