Senate HELP Committee Advances Bill to Protect Kids from Tobacco Addiction and Save Lives

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

May. 20 2009

Washington, D.C. — We applaud the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) for approving legislation to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over tobacco products. Today's vote moves Congress closer than ever before to enacting this historic and long-overdue legislation to protect our children from tobacco addiction and save lives. We urge the Senate to quickly join the House in approving this legislation and to reject all efforts to weaken it. FDA regulation of tobacco products, the nation's number one cause of preventable death, is an essential step toward improving health and reducing health care costs in the United States.

We applaud Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Chair of the HELP Committee, for his leadership and persistence in championing this legislation and bringing it to the brink of enactment. We also applaud Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) for his leadership in guiding this legislation through the committee today.

This legislation has strong, bipartisan support in Congress and across the nation. The House of Representatives on April 2 voted 298-112 to approve similar legislation. 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, secretly change their products (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 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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