Senate HELP Committee Acts to Protect Kids and Save Lives By Approving Bill to Regulate Tobacco Products

By William V. Corr, Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Aug. 1 2007

Washington, DC — We applaud the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee for approving legislation to provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with authority to regulate tobacco products. The Senate HELP Committee has approved a strong bill that will provide the FDA with ample resources and effective authority to bring about fundamental change that will promote public health. Today’s committee vote moves Congress a critical step closer to enacting truly historic legislation that can protect our children from tobacco addiction and save countless lives. There are few actions Congress can take that would make a bigger difference for our nation’s health.

We urge both the Senate and the House to quickly enact this long-overdue legislation into law and to reject all efforts to weaken it. It is clear from the strong support for this legislation in both political parties and both chambers of Congress that Congress has the votes to pass this bipartisan legislation now. A Senate majority of 53 senators are sponsoring this legislation, as are 195 members of the House.

This legislation has the support of every major national public health organization and more than 440 public health, faith and other organizations across the country, as well as the strong support of the American people. According to a recent national poll, 70 percent of voters support Congress passing the legislation and 72 percent believe passage of the legislation would be an important accomplishment for Congress. The poll also shows FDA regulation of tobacco is supported across political lines, geographic regions and even by a majority of smokers (detailed poll results).

The need for this legislation couldn’t be clearer. As the Institute of Medicine concluded in a groundbreaking report issued in May, the United States cannot eliminate tobacco use as a serious public health problem unless Congress grants the FDA broad regulatory authority over tobacco products. Tobacco use is the nation’s leading preventable cause of death, killing more than 400,000 people and costing more than $96 billion in health care bills each year. Every day Congress fails to act, another 1,200 Americans die from tobacco use and more than 1,000 children become new regular smokers.

Despite all the death and disease they cause, tobacco products are virtually unregulated to protect consumers’ health. This continuing lack of regulation allows the tobacco companies to market their deadly products to our children, deceive consumers about the harm their products cause and resist even the most minimal steps to make their products less harmful.

Among other things, the 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. By enacting this legislation into law this year, Congress can finally end the special protection the tobacco industry has enjoyed for far too long and instead protect our children and the nation’s health.

 

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