Statement: Regarding Surgeon General’s Report on Reducing Tobacco Use

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Aug. 10 2000

Chicago, IL — View Campaign Special Report

Today’s Report of the Surgeon General on reducing tobacco use provides a veritable roadmap for dramatically decreasing the toll of disease and death that tobacco exacts in the United States and around the world. The evidence and recommendations presented in the report make it clearer than ever that addressing the devastation caused by tobacco use is no longer a matter of finding a way; it is simply a matter of finding the will. This report strips public officials of all excuses not to act.

The combination of comprehensive prevention and cessation programs, regulatory efforts, and economic interventions recommended by the report can cut tobacco use in half by the year 2010. However, this is only possible if policy makers at all levels of government and private sector health care providers act now to implement these evidence-based recommendations.

At the federal level, Congress must grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration full authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing, and sale of all tobacco products. This authority must include oversight of the product itself, as well as the flexibility to restrict the way tobacco products are sold and marketed to our children by the tobacco companies.

As a result of settlements with the tobacco industry, each and every state now has the resources to fund comprehensive tobacco prevention programs that have been proven to reduce tobacco use among both kids and adults. These programs include public education campaigns, community and school-based programs, help for smokers who want to quit, and enforcement of youth access laws. States such as Massachusetts, Florida, and California that have implemented comprehensive prevention programs have experienced dramatic successes. Today’s report leaves no excuse for any state to leave its citizens, and especially its children, unprotected from the harm caused by tobacco.

Congress and state legislatures can further reduce tobacco use by increasing excise taxes on all tobacco products. Research has shown repeatedly that the resulting price increases will drive down tobacco use, particularly by young people. Governments at all levels, as well as private concerns, can also implement and enforce restrictions on environmental tobacco smoke that will not only reduce involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke but also contribute to reductions in tobacco consumption. Finally, as this combination of measures encourages more and more smokers to quit, they must be provided assistance in the form of counseling, skills training, and pharmacological treatments, as well as public and private health insurance coverage of these life-saving cessation treatments.

Today’s release should settle once and for all any questions about the efficacy of policy and prevention efforts to reduce tobacco use. However, the recommendations in the report are not a menu to be selected from. Their impact on the public health will only be fully realized if they are all adopted and sustained.

 

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