Public Health Groups Applaud Historic Senate Vote to Regulate Tobacco Products

Statement of American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jul. 15 2004

Washington, DC - The United States Senate today took historic action to reduce tobacco’s terrible toll on our nation’s health by voting overwhelmingly to approve legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effective authority to regulate tobacco products. The 78 to 15 vote represents the first time that either house of Congress has voted to grant the FDA authority over tobacco products. House and Senate negotiators will now meet to craft the final version of the Foreign Sales Corporation (FSC) tax bill that includes the FDA legislation. It is critical that the conferees adopt the Senate approach and reject any effort to weaken the FDA tobacco authority legislation adopted by the Senate today. Our public health organizations will work vigorously to protect the approach adopted by the Senate and will vociferously oppose any attempt to weaken the FDA tobacco authority it provides.

The Senate approved an amendment by Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) to the FSC bill that includes the DeWine-Kennedy FDA tobacco regulation bill and legislation introduced by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to provide a tobacco grower buyout that is paid by tobacco companies, not taxpayers. In contrast, the House-passed FSC bill includes no FDA tobacco authority and a buyout that would be paid by taxpayers. The Senate amendment passed overwhelmingly precisely because both public health groups and tobacco grower groups supported it.

Final legislation that includes both strong FDA tobacco authority and an industry-funded tobacco buyout would be consistent with votes that have now been taken by both the Senate and the House. The House on Tuesday voted for an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill that prohibits the implementation of a taxpayer-funded buyout. Many supporters of the amendment made it clear that they would support a buyout only if the tobacco companies pay for it and it is linked to effective FDA tobacco authority. The message to conferees is clear: large majorities of both the House and the Senate are prepared to support final legislation that includes both strong FDA tobacco authority and a buyout paid by tobacco companies. The public also strongly supports FDA tobacco regulation. A poll conducted in June found that 69 percent of voters support strong and effective FDA tobacco regulation, while 80 percent opposed a taxpayer-funded tobacco buyout.

Today’s Senate vote is a giant step toward a national tobacco policy that can significantly reduce the number of children who become addicted to tobacco products and the number of people who die each year from tobacco-caused disease. Tobacco use is the nation’s leading preventable cause of death, killing more than 400,000 people and costing our nation more than $75 billion in health care bills every year. Every day, another 2,000 kids become regular smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result. Yet tobacco products are virtually unregulated to protect consumers’ health and safety. For decades, the tobacco companies have marketed their deadly products to our children, deceived consumers about the harm their products cause, and failed to take any meaningful action to make their products less harmful or less addictive. The legislation approved by the Senate today would finally end the special protection enjoyed by the tobacco industry and protect our children and the nation’s health instead.

This legislation meets the standards long established by the public health community for a strong FDA tobacco regulation bill that protects the public health. It would give the FDA the necessary tools and resources to effectively regulate the manufacturing, marketing, labeling, distribution and sale of tobacco products. The FDA would have the authority to:

  • Restrict advertising and promotions that appeal to children.
  • Stop illegal sales of tobacco products to children.
  • Require changes in tobacco products, such as the reduction or elimination of harmful chemicals, to make them less toxic or less addictive.
  • Prohibit unsubstantiated health claims about so-called “reduced risk” tobacco products that would have the effect of discouraging current tobacco users from quitting or encouraging new users to start.
  • Require the disclosure of the contents of tobacco products and tobacco industry research about the health effects of their products.
  • Require larger and more informative health warnings on tobacco products.

We applaud Senators DeWine and Kennedy for their decisive leadership on behalf of public health and are heartened by the overwhelming vote by 78 Senators in support of this legislation to grant the FDA authority over tobacco products.

 

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