Sep. 24 2003
Washington, D.C. — Our public health organizations have repeatedly demonstrated our commitment to passing legislation to help tobacco growers and communities by restructuring the current federal tobacco program and buying out tobacco quota holders. We served along with tobacco grower representatives as members of a Presidential Commission that in May 2001 unanimously recommended such a proposal, and we have endorsed and worked to pass legislation consistent with the Commission's recommendations. We remain committed to achieving these goals.
However, we oppose the movement of buyout legislation introduced in the House today because tobacco state lawmakers have failed to provide any assurance that it would not become a vehicle for the enactment of ineffective Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products that puts the tobacco industry's interests ahead of public health. Our public health organizations have demonstrated a strong commitment to helping tobacco farmers. We have asked tobacco-state lawmakers to demonstrate the same level of commitment to help enact effective FDA authority over tobacco products, but have yet to see it. Without such a commitment, the House buyout legislation could become a vehicle for weak FDA legislation.
Tobacco-state lawmakers hold the key to passing legislation in this Congress to help tobacco farmers. If they are serious about wanting to pass such legislation, they will join the public health community in supporting both strong FDA legislation and a legislative process that can deliver a strong FDA bill to the President's desk. Tobacco state lawmakers must choose between protecting the interests of the tobacco farmers or the interests of the tobacco companies.
It is also important to note that the tobacco quota-buyout legislation introduced in the House today, like legislation recently introduced in the Senate, falls short in providing economic assistance that tobacco growers say they need and that our organizations have endorsed. This legislation also falls short of recommendations made by a Presidential Commission made up of growers, public health leaders, and economists. It also does not provide incentives for decreasing the production of tobacco. Our public health organizations will continue to work to enact a strong package of economic assistance to help tobacco farmers and strong FDA legislation to protect the public health. If legislation is to pass this year, it will require a coalition that includes Members of Congress who represent tobacco growers and Members who support meaningful authority for the FDA over tobacco products.