Congress Can Deliver Historic Victory for Children and America's Health By Granting FDA Authority Over Tobacco Products

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

Mar. 3 2009

Washington, D.C. — Our public health organizations strongly support the bipartisan legislation introduced today to provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with effective authority to regulate tobacco products. There are few steps Congress can take that will make a bigger difference for America's health than to finally regulate tobacco products, the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. Enactment of this legislation this year will be a truly historic accomplishment that will end the special protection the tobacco industry has enjoyed for too long and protect our children and the nation's health instead. We applaud House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Representative Todd Platts (R-PA) for their leadership in introducing this very strong bill.

Each year in the United States, tobacco-related diseases kill more than 400,000 people and cost the nation $96 billion in health care bills. So reducing tobacco use is critical to preventing disease, improving health and reducing health care costs in our country. The legislation introduced today will help achieve these goals by reducing the many devastating and costly diseases caused by tobacco use, which include cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and others that harm virtually every organ in the human body.

Unbelievably, despite the harm they cause, tobacco products are exempt from basic health regulations that apply to other products, such as food, drugs, cosmetics and even dog food. The tobacco companies take advantage of this lack of regulation to market their deadly and addictive products to children, deceive consumers about the harm their products cause, make changes to their products without disclosing them (such as secretly increasing nicotine levels in cigarette smoke, as studies have shown), and resist any meaningful change to make their products less harmful. Until Congress grants the FDA authority over tobacco products, the tobacco companies will continue their harmful practices that addict children and make it difficult for smokers to quit.

This legislation would grant the FDA the authority and resources to effectively regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. Among other things, it would:

  • Restrict tobacco advertising and promotions, especially to children.
  • Stop illegal sales of tobacco products to children.
  • Require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco packages and advertising.
  • Ban misleading health claims such as "light" and "low-tar" and strictly regulate all health claims about tobacco products to ensure they are scientifically proven and do not discourage current tobacco users from quitting or encourage new users to start.
  • Require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products, as well as changes in products and research about their health effects.
  • Empower the FDA to require changes in tobacco products, such as the removal or reduction of harmful ingredients or the reduction of nicotine levels.

This legislation has strong, bipartisan support across the nation and in Congress. FDA regulation of tobacco products has been endorsed by more than 900 public health, faith, medical and other organizations. A poll last year found that it is supported by 70 percent of American voters. It has also been endorsed by scientific authorities including the Institute of Medicine and the President's Cancer Panel. The House of Representatives in July approved the legislation by an overwhelmingly vote of 326 to 102, and it had 60 Senate sponsors in the last Congress.

This legislation presents Congress with a truly historic opportunity to protect our children from tobacco addiction and save lives. Its enactment would represent the strongest action ever taken by the federal government to address tobacco use. 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.

If you have any questions or to schedule an interview, please contact Joel Spivak (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids) at 202-296-5469; Steve Weiss (American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network) at 202-661-5711; Suzanne Ffolkes (American Heart Association) at 202-785-7929; or Heather Grzelka (American Lung Association) at 202-715-3450.

 

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