President Obama Delivers Historic Victory for America's Kids and Health over Tobacco

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

Jun. 22 2009

Washington, D.C. — President Obama today struck an historic blow against the greatest public health menace of our time by signing into law bipartisan legislation that grants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. Coming 45 years after the first Surgeon General's report linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer, this long-overdue law is the strongest action the federal government has ever taken to reduce tobacco use, the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. This new law will protect our children from the tobacco industry's predatory marketing, save countless lives and reduce the enormous health and financial burden that tobacco use imposes on our nation. Today is a great day for America's kids and health.

We thank President Obama for his leadership and strong support of this legislation. This new law is a tribute to the leadership and tenacity of its lead sponsors in Congress, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA). We thank them and the many other members of Congress who have played leadership roles, including House Speaker Nancy Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), who shepherded the legislation through the Senate this year. We also thank and congratulate the more than 1,000 public health, faith and other organizations across the country that came together in one of the strongest coalitions ever to unite behind public health legislation.

The enactment of this new law by itself does not end the long battle against tobacco use, but it is a giant step towards achieving the goal of significantly reducing — and eventually eliminating — the death and disease caused by tobacco. Achieving this goal will require an aggressive and comprehensive effort by all levels of government. We look forward to the FDA effectively implementing this law and using the strong authority it has been given to fundamentally change how tobacco products are manufactured, marketed and sold in the United States. FDA regulation is intended as a critical complement, not a replacement, for the successful work that has been going on at the state and local level. State and local leaders must continue and, in fact, step up their efforts to implement proven measures to reduce tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free workplace laws and well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

It is our hope that this legislation will lead to dramatically greater federal activity to help reduce the death and disease from tobacco use. Health care reform provides a critical opportunity to expand national tobacco prevention and cessation efforts. We also look forward to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stepping up its tobacco prevention and cessation initiatives, and the National Institutes of Health playing a leading research role in support of these efforts.

It is also important that the United States provide leadership in the global fight against tobacco use as the tobacco industry increasingly targets developing countries to sustain profits as smoking declines in the U.S. and other developed countries. The U.S. should ratify the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and support efforts to implement it effectively around the world.

Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans each year, sickens millions more and costs the nation $96 billion annually in health care bills. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers — one-third of them will die prematurely as a result. Yet, until now, tobacco products have escaped the FDA's common-sense regulations that apply to every other product we consume, from food to drugs to cosmetics. The new law grants the FDA the authority and resources necessary to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. Among other things, it will:

  • Restrict tobacco advertising and promotions, especially to children.
  • Stop illegal sales of tobacco products to children.
  • Ban candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes.
  • Require large, graphic health warnings that cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs.
  • Ban misleading health claims such as "light" and "low-tar."
  • 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.

More information on the new law.

 

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