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Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Honors Sen. Richard Durbin For Three Decades of Leadership in Fighting Tobacco’s Devastating Toll

May 12, 2010

Washington, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will present U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) with its highest honor, the Champion Award, for his three decades of leadership in the fight to reduce tobacco’s devastating toll in the United States and worldwide. Sen. Durbin, the Assistant Senate Majority Leader, is to receive the award at the Campaign’s annual gala tonight in Washington, D.C.

From the start of his career in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1983 to today, Sen. Durbin has dedicated himself to reducing the death and disease caused by tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

Sen. Durbin was among the first legislators to call for restrictions on tobacco marketing and among the first to sponsor legislation to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products. His leadership and persistence for more than twenty years were a major factor in the enactment of the historic Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009. This law gives the FDA authority over the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products and has already led to restrictions on tobacco marketing and sales to kids.

Early in his tenure, then-Rep. Durbin’s visionary leadership led to passage of legislation that banned smoking aboard commercial aircraft, a landmark law that changed the world. The aircraft smoking ban marked the start of a movement that has made virtually all flights worldwide smoke-free and led 28 states and the District of Columbia – as well as hundreds of cities and a growing number of countries – to pass smoke-free laws.

In 1994, Rep. Durbin asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether tobacco company executives committed perjury when they testified under oath that they did not believe tobacco was addictive. When the federal government’s lawsuit against the tobacco companies came under political attack, he fought to advance it and protect its funding. He continues to work for full Medicaid coverage of treatments to help patients quit smoking.

Sen. Durbin’s commitment to tobacco prevention extends beyond the United States. He played a leading role in the first U.S. meeting of legislative leaders from around the world who were organizing against tobacco, and he has been an outspoken supporter of U.S. ratification of the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

“Senator Durbin is a true champion in the fight to reduce tobacco use and improve the health of all Americans and people worldwide,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Thanks to Senator Durbin, today we are no longer exposed to toxic secondhand smoke on airplanes and in workplaces and public places across the nation. He has been instrumental in the successful fight to regulate tobacco products in the United States and in the growing global campaign to combat tobacco use. Senator Durbin has fought to safeguard our kids, save lives and protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.”

Sen. Durbin will be recognized at the Campaign’s annual awards gala, a gathering of government, public health, civic and business leaders who come together each year to mark progress in the fight against tobacco.

Besides presenting Durbin with its Champion award, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids also will honor its Youth Advocates of the Year, young people from around the country who have been active in the fight to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, claiming more than 400,000 lives each year and costing $96 billion annually in health care bills.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences in the United States and around the world. The Campaign advocates for proven policies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.