House Committee Vote Sets Congress on Course For Historic Regulation of Tobacco Products

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Mar. 4 2009

Washington, D.C. — The House Energy and Commerce Committee today set Congress on a course to take truly historic action to reduce tobacco use by approving legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products. Today's 39-13 vote underscores the broad, bipartisan support for this legislation. Coming early in the new Congress, it sends a powerful signal that this year Congress will finally enact into law this long-overdue legislation to protect our children from tobacco addiction and save lives. Few actions would make a bigger difference for our nation's health than the regulation of tobacco products, the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.

We applaud House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Representative Todd Platts (R-PA) for their leadership in introducing this strong legislation and quickly moving it forward. Enactment of this legislation into law would represent a tremendous victory for America's health and a bipartisan achievement for the new Congress and President Obama, who co-sponsored the bill while a senator.

This legislation has strong, bipartisan support across the nation and in Congress. It has been endorsed by more than 950 public health, faith, medical and other organizations. A poll last year found that FDA regulation of tobacco products is supported by 70 percent of American voters. It has 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 overwhelming vote of 326 to 102, and it had 60 Senate sponsors in the last Congress.

This legislation is urgently needed. Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs the nation $96 billion in health care bills each year. Every day, another 1,200 Americans die from tobacco use and another 1,000 children become new regular smokers. Yet tobacco products are virtually unregulated to protect public health. This lack of regulation allows tobacco companies 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 manipulating nicotine levels in cigarettes), and resist any meaningful change to make their products less harmful.

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.

We urge both the House and the Senate to quickly enact this legislation into law and to resist all efforts to weaken it.

 

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