Jun. 21 2007
Washington, D.C. — In a show of strong bipartisan support, a majority of the United States Senate - 51 Senators - are now sponsors of legislation to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) effective authority over tobacco products (S. 625). U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) this week became the 51st Senator to sign on to the bill. Identical legislation in the House (H.R. 1108) has garnered 181 sponsors. The support for this legislation by both political parties and both sides of the Capitol demonstrates that Congress has the votes to pass this legislation now.
By enacting this legislation into law, Congress can seize a truly historic opportunity to protect our children from tobacco addiction and save countless lives. There are few steps Congress can take that would make a bigger difference for our nation’s health. The time is now to pass this long-overdue legislation because every day another 1,200 Americans die from tobacco use and more than 1,000 children become new regular smokers.
The need for this legislation is clear. As the Institute of Medicine concluded in a groundbreaking report last month, the United States cannot eliminate tobacco use as a serious public health problem unless Congress grants the FDA broad regulatory authority over tobacco products. The IOM concluded that only a combination of FDA authority over tobacco and stepped-up state initiatives can achieve this goal. As the IOM concluded, “The time has come for Congress to exercise its acknowledged authority to regulate the production, marketing and distribution of tobacco products.”
The IOM report found that the pending legislation, introduced by U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) and U.S. Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Tom Davis (R-VA), “embodies the principles that should govern the regulation of tobacco products in the coming years.” Among other things, this legislation would grant the FDA authority to crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids; require that tobacco companies disclose the contents of tobacco products and reduce or remove harmful ingredients; stop tobacco companies from misleading the public about the health risks of their products; and require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products. Consistent with the IOM’s recommendations, the legislation would for the first time in 40 years grant states the authority to regulate cigarette marketing. States and localities could impose bans or restrictions on the time, place and manner (but not content) of the advertising or promotion of cigarettes.
Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs the nation more than $96 billion in health care bills each year. The time is now for Congress to address the nation’s number one preventable cause of death by granting the FDA effective authority over tobacco products.