Dec. 7 2001
Washington, DC — States and the federal government are failing to do what they can to keep cigarettes out of the hands of children. A new Government Accounting Office (GAO) report released today finds fundamental flaws in state efforts to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to children and in the related federal enforcement of the Synar Amendment (a 1992 federal law that requires states to enact and enforce laws that prohibit tobacco sales to minors). The report was prepared at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).
Youth access laws are an important component of a comprehensive tobacco prevention program. Effective enforcement of such laws requires frequent, random and unannounced compliance checks using 16 and 17 year-olds, combined with stiff penalties for retailers who violate the law. The GAO report shows that the federal government and the states are falling short in implementing such measures. This report underscores the need for Congress to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products, including enforcing strict youth access laws with strong penalties. The FDA did effectively regulate the sale and distribution of tobacco products to minors from 1996 to March 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress has so far failed to give FDA the authority it needs to do so. Today's report makes it clear that it is well past time for Congress to act.
Legislation to grant the FDA authority over tobacco products has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate (H.R. 1097 and H.R. 1043 by Reps. Ganske, Dingell and Waxman and S. 247 by Sens. Harkin, Chafee and Graham). The GAO report is powerful new evidence that FDA authority over tobacco products is needed to keep cigarettes out of the hands of our children.
Every day in this country, 5,000 kids try cigarettes for the first time. More than 2,000 become regular smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result of smoking. Based on the evidence in the GAO report, Congress should act quickly to protect our kids.
View the GAO report