U.S. House Panel Puts Big Tobacco’s… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

U.S. House Panel Puts Big Tobacco’s Interests Ahead of Kids’ Health

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
July 08, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Appropriations Committee today put the interests of the tobacco industry ahead of the health of America’s kids. By “grandfathering” flavored e-cigarettes and cigars from needed review and regulation, the Committee significantly limited the FDA’s ability to protect our nation’s children from such products on the market, including those with flavors like gummy bear and cotton candy.

We applaud Rep. Nita Lowey for her attempt to strip the damaging language from the bill. The close vote on her amendment (23 in favor, 26 opposed) revealed genuine bipartisan concern over the issue.

The Committee bill’s language severely degrades the FDA’s authority to protect our nation’s youth from tobacco addiction and disease. In the last several years tobacco companies have peddled cheap, flavored cigars to get around the ban on kid-friendly flavored cigarettes, while e-cigarette manufacturers have introduced literally thousands of flavors, many appealing to kids.

This bill would undermine efforts to prevent children and teenagers from smoking by exempting e-cigarettes and other tobacco products that entered the market since 2007 from an independent scientific review by FDA. In a letter to the Committee, the Office of Management and Budget noted the threat to public health if e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can stay on the market for the foreseeable future without a full and fair evaluation of their risks. Forty-two public health and medical groups have expressed their opposition to the bill language.

The Committee’s action is another attack on existing tobacco control efforts on behalf of the tobacco industry. We’ve already seen House appropriators push for funding cuts to the CDC and its TIPS campaign, the agency’s successful national tobacco education campaign whose 2012 campaign motivated over 1.6 million smokers to make a quit attempt in its first year.

The latest House appropriations language would greatly weaken FDA’s authority over e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products that would be newly regulated under the proposed rule the FDA issued in April 2014. It would completely exempt from FDA’s product review requirement any e-cigarettes or cigars already on the market when the FDA issues a final rule, which is expected this summer.

This new product review is critical to prevent tobacco companies from introducing new products that threaten public health by being more addictive, harmful and appealing – particularly to kids.

We are particularly dismayed that members of the Republican leadership – including Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Chairman Fred Upton – are part of this misguided effort. They and others pushing Big Tobacco’s agenda are also major recipients of tobacco industry campaign donations, which further puts into question their motives and intentions.

This language is not only harmful to public health but also completely unnecessary. The FDA’s proposed rule already addresses industry concerns that e-cigarettes and cigars now on the market would have to be pulled while the FDA conducts its review. Under the FDA’s proposal, all e-cigarettes and cigars currently on the market would remain available so long as manufacturers file an application with the FDA within two years and would remain on the market unless FDA determines they are detrimental to public health.

A recent government survey showed youth e-cigarette use tripled from 2013 to 2014 (from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent among high school students) and now exceeds youth use of regular cigarettes. High school boys now smoke cigars at roughly the same rate as cigarettes (10.8 percent for cigars and 10.6 percent for cigarettes), and cigars remain the most commonly used tobacco products among African-American high school students, who smoke cigars at nearly twice the rate of cigarettes.