U.S. House Takes Giant Step Toward Historic Regulation of Tobacco Products

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

Apr. 2 2009

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives today put Congress on the brink of truly historic action to reduce tobacco use — the nation's No. 1 cause of preventable death — by approving legislation granting the FDA authority over tobacco products. We urge the Senate to quickly pass this legislation and resist all efforts to weaken it. There are few steps Congress can take that would make a bigger difference for America's health than to pass this long-overdue legislation. It 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 strong legislation and quickly moving it forward.

Today's 298-112 vote underscores the broad, bipartisan support for this legislation and provides strong momentum for enacting it into law this year. It has been endorsed by more than 1,000 public health, faith, medical and other organizations. A poll last year found that 70 percent of American voters support FDA regulation of tobacco products. It has been endorsed by scientific authorities including the Institute of Medicine and the President's Cancer Panel.

Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs the nation $96 billion in health care bills each year. Every day, more than 1,000 children become new regular smokers. Yet tobacco products are exempt from the FDA's common-sense regulations that apply to virtually every other product we consume, from food to drugs to cosmetics. This 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.
  • Fully fund the FDA's new tobacco-related responsibilities with a user fee on tobacco companies so no resources are taken from the FDA's current work.

 

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