House Appropriations Bill Slashes Funding for CDC’s Vital Tobacco Control Programs, Putting Tobacco Industry Before Health

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
July 07, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of Congress once again have protected the tobacco industry at the expense of America’s kids and public health by advancing an appropriations bill that slashes funding for the CDC’s highly effective programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. A House Appropriations subcommittee today approved the bill, which cuts funding for the CDC’s vital tobacco control programs by more than half, from $210 million to $100 million (the bill funds the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education for Fiscal Year 2017). The subcommittee is chaired by U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), who supported the funding cut.

This funding cut makes no sense given the proven effectiveness of the CDC’s tobacco prevention and cessation programs and tobacco’s terrible toll in health, lives and health care dollars. It serves only the interests of the tobacco industry.

Despite tremendous progress in reducing smoking, tobacco use is still the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year. It costs our nation about $170 billion a year in health care bills, more than 60 percent of which is paid by taxpayers through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. It is truly irresponsible to cut programs that protect children, help smokers quit and save taxpayers money.

The proposed cut would make it virtually impossible for the CDC to continue its Tips from Former Smokers media campaign that has proved so cost-effective at helping smokers quit. Since its launch in 2012, the Tips campaign has helped more than 400,000 smokers to quit for good and saved at least 50,000 lives, according to the CDC. At a cost of less than $400 for each year of life saved, it is considered a “best buy” in public health. This proposal could also force CDC to reduce grants it provides to all 50 states to help run tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

The CDC’s initiatives have helped drive smoking rates to record lows among both youth and adults. Why in the world would Congress want to cut back a program with such a strong track record of saving lives and money? It is especially baffling, in the context of a bill that significantly increases funding for medical research to find cures to deadly diseases, that Congress would slash programs that prevent serious, costly diseases like cancer and heart disease.

We applaud U.S. Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the ranking members of the full Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee respectively, for their longstanding leadership in reducing tobacco use in our nation. Rep. DeLauro offered an amendment to restore funding for the CDC’s tobacco prevention and cessation programs and other programs that were cut in the bill. The amendment was not adopted. We urge members of Congress to restore full funding for these critical initiatives as the bill moves forward.

This is the second House appropriations bill that protects the interests and profits of tobacco companies. The House appropriations bill that funds the FDA contains two provisions that would dramatically weaken the FDA’s new rules for cigars and electronic cigarettes and make it harder for the FDA to protect our kids. One provision exempts so-called “large and premium cigars,” but defines such cigars so broadly that it could also exempt some cheap, machine-made, flavored cigars that are widely used by children. The second provision, authored by Representative Cole, limits FDA oversight of e-cigarettes and cigars already on the market, including products with kid-friendly flavors such as cotton candy, gummy bear and fruit punch that have flooded the market in recent years. These proposals would make it easier for tobacco companies to keep targeting our children with these products, which is the last thing we need in light of recent survey results showing that youth e-cigarette use has skyrocketed and high school boys now smoke cigars at higher rates than cigarettes.

These appropriations bills undermine the two agencies most responsible for reducing tobacco use in the United States. Instead of giving the tobacco industry what it wants, Congress should protect our nation’s children and health.