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House Appropriations Bill Puts Tobacco Industry Before Kids by Weakening FDA Oversight of Tobacco Products

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids​
May 17, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday again sided with the tobacco industry over America’s kids by voting to weaken Food and Drug Administration oversight of tobacco products, including candy-flavored products that appeal to kids. The committee supported a tobacco industry-backed amendment that completely exempts some cigars from FDA oversight, excludes other cigars from a scientific review by the FDA, and makes it much easier for tobacco companies to introduce new products without adequate FDA review of their health risks and appeal to youth. These provisions would weaken FDA’s ability to remove from the market candy-flavored tobacco products that appeal to kids and make it easier for tobacco companies to introduce similar products in the future.

This is the fourth year in a row that the House Appropriations Committee has included tobacco industry giveaways in the appropriations bill that funds the Department of Agriculture, FDA and other agencies. Once again, they must not be allowed to become law. The New York Times has reported that previous provisions were drafted by Altria and supported by R.J. Reynolds. Members of Congress reported that the tobacco industry is behind the latest proposal as well.

Supporters of the latest amendment argue that it includes additional requirements to address youth use of e-cigarettes, but the FDA already has the authority to impose these requirements. These additions cannot hide the fact that this amendment is a major tobacco industry attack on the 2009 law granting the FDA authority over tobacco products and on the FDA’s 2016 rule establishing public health oversight of e-cigarettes, cigars and other previously unregulated tobacco products.

The tobacco provisions in the House appropriations bill would undermine the FDA’s authority to protect kids and public health:

  • One provision would completely exempt so-called “large and premium cigars” from FDA oversight, but defines such cigars so broadly that it could end up exempting cheap, machine-made, flavored cigars that are widely used by kids. In its 2016 rule, the FDA concluded that there is no public health justification for exempting any cigars, finding that all cigars pose serious health risks and are potentially addictive. Cigars are sold in hundreds of flavors and are particularly popular among high school boys, who smoke them at a slightly higher rate than cigarettes.
  • The amendment also would exempt all other cigars, as well as pipe tobacco, that entered the market between February 15, 2007, and April 25, 2014, from having to undergo FDA review in order to remain on the market. These include many cigars in kid-friendly flavors, like Tropical Fusion and Wild Cherry, that are cheap (e.g., two for 99 cents) and sold in convenience stores.) Current law prohibits the introduction of new or changed tobacco products (defined as products introduced after February 15, 2007) without prior scientific review by the FDA and a demonstration by the manufacturer that allowing the product would benefit public health. This review enables the FDA to assess a product’s health risks and appeal to youth.
  • Another provision would make it easier for tobacco companies to introduce new products without adequate FDA review of their health risks and appeal to kids. The proposed change would allow more products entering the market to claim that they are “substantially equivalent” to products already on the market and escape the more rigorous review for new products. This weakens one of the FDA’s most important tools for keeping off the market products that appeal to kids or otherwise harm public health.

We applaud House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Rep. Chris Stewart and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz for speaking out against these harmful provisions and highlighting the urgent need to protect our nation’s children from being targeted by the tobacco industry. We urge Congress to reject these harmful provisions.