Public Health Groups Back Bills Introduced by Sen. Cleland and Rep. Fletcher to Help Tobacco Farmers and Tobacco Growing Communities

Jun. 28 2002

Washington, DC — The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids announced their support for separate bills introduced today by Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) and Representative Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) to help our nation's tobacco farmers and communities that depend on tobacco farming. Both bills would restructure the federal tobacco program and provide farmers and communities with economic transition assistance to reduce their dependence on tobacco.

The public health groups praised these bills for including a price support program, limiting production and providing incentives for some farmers to stop growing tobacco. These provisions are critical to the long-term financial health and stability of tobacco growing communities.

The Cleland bill is consistent with the recommendations unanimously adopted last year by the President's Commission on Improving Economic Opportunity in Communities Dependent on Tobacco Production while Protecting Public Health. The Commission consisted of an equal number of tobacco growers and public health advocates as well as economic development experts. The leaders of the three public health groups endorsing the legislation today were members of the commission.

The Fletcher bill is similar to the recommendations of the Commission. The level of compensation for tobacco growers in the Fletcher bill is different from the recommendations of the Commission, but the public health groups say they look forward to working with Congressman Fletcher to build consensus over this aspect of the bill.

The Commission also endorsed Congress granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration meaningful authority over tobacco products comparable to the authority it has over other products. The public health community supports legislation introduced in the House by Representatives Greg Ganske (R-IA), John Dingell (D-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) (H.R. 1097) and in the Senate by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Mike DeWine (R-OH) (S. 2626).

"We must solve both the public health crisis caused by tobacco use and the economic crisis facing tobacco farmers and communities. The bills introduced by Senator Cleland and Congressman Fletcher are important steps toward achieving these goals. The support of leading public health organizations for these bills is the type of historic partnership between the public health community and the tobacco growing community that will be critical to accomplishing our mutual goals of assisting tobacco farmers and their communities while promoting the public health. We urge Congress to act quickly both to help tobacco farmers and to grant the FDA meaningful authority over tobacco products," the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a joint statement.

The decline in the amount of tobacco that U.S. farmers are allowed to grow under the tobacco program's quota system, which is largely the result of U.S. tobacco companies increasing use of foreign-grown tobacco, has had a devastating effect on tobacco farmers and tobacco-dependent communities. It is now up to the government to fix the current system, which it created, and adopt a new, restructured tobacco program.

The Cleland and Fletcher bills would end the current tobacco quota system, compensate quota owners and growers for the loss in the value of their assets, and establish a production permit system for active growers.

The bills also establish a non-profit corporation, the Center for Tobacco-Dependent Communities, to provide assistance to communities making a transition from tobacco-based economies. The Center would provide technical assistance; conduct workshops and conferences; serve as a clearinghouse for best practices; and provide research and policy development to help communities shift away from tobacco dependence and create new economic opportunities.

 

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