Statement: The Introduction in the… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Statement: The Introduction in the House of Representatives of Bipartisan Legislation to Grant the FDA Authority Over Tobacco

Statement by Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 15, 2001

Washington, DC — A year ago, the United States Supreme Court called tobacco use the nation's most serious public health threat, but ruled that Congress had not granted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. Unfortunately, Congress has yet to act despite the mounting toll of tobacco in death, disease and addiction and the growing evidence that the tobacco industry has not changed its harmful and deceptive practices.

Today's introduction of bipartisan legislation by Representatives Ganske, Waxman and Dingell presents Congress with a fresh opportunity to address what is the leading preventable cause of death in our nation. We join in supporting all three of these bills to grant the FDA the authority it needs to protect our kids and the public health. We also support a similar bill that has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Harkin, Chafee and Graham.

The need for action has never been greater. The tobacco companies may claim that they have changed, but two recent reports make it clear that they have not. Only the enactment of legislation to grant the FDA effective authority over tobacco can bring about the change we need.

Three weeks ago, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences released a report about the growing number of so-called 'reduced risk' products that the tobacco companies are developing and marketing. The report reached two primary conclusions. First, none of the 'reduced risk' products now on the market have been proven to be less hazardous and may in fact increase the incidence of tobacco-related disease by deterring current smokers from quitting or encouraging new smokers to start. Second, tobacco products need to be regulated like other consumable products to protect the public health.

This report was a powerful reminder that, given the tobacco industry's 50-year history of deception about the harm caused by its products, the continued failure of Congress to enact FDA regulation leaves Americans unprotected from new deceptions that would cost even more lives.

Just this week, the Federal Trade Commission released its annual report that tracks cigarette advertising and promotional expenditures. This report disproves the tobacco industry's claims, made in television ads and public statements, that its marketing was significantly restricted by the November 1998 legal settlement with the states. In 1999, the first full year after the settlement, cigarette manufacturers spent a record $8.24 billion on advertising and promotion, an increase of $1.51 billion or 22.3 percent. Much of that increase was in categories effective at attracting kids, including shelf displays, two-for-one promotions that reduce cigarette prices, giveaways such as hats and lighters, store advertising and magazine advertising.

These reports show that the tobacco industry's claims of change are a self-serving sham aimed at heading off real change in the form of legislation to grant the FDA meaningful authority to regulate tobacco. The need for FDA regulation of the tobacco industry has increased in the past year, not decreased.

All three bills introduced today provide effective FDA regulation of tobacco products. The Ganske/Dingell/Waxman bill would allow the FDA to restrict tobacco marketing to protect the public health, including those forms of marketing that have the greatest appeal to children, and would dramatically curtail illegal tobacco sales to children. It would also apply to tobacco the same basic public health standards that apply to other products. It would allow the FDA to require tobacco companies to reduce or eliminate harmful components found in tobacco products and smoke, require independent scientific testing of products and health claims, and prohibit or restrict health claims that are unsubstantiated or harm public health.

The Ganske/Dingell/Waxman FDA bill addresses the concerns of tobacco farmers by making it clear that the FDA cannot go onto farms or be involved in the regulation of on-farm production of tobacco. This bill also includes language to address the retailing concerns of the National Association of Convenience Stores.

The Waxman FDA bill, which is also cosponsored by Reps. Ganske and Dingell, includes additional restrictions on marketing and regulation of ingredients. The Waxman comprehensive bill includes additional measures, including policies to protect people from environmental tobacco smoke and to enhance tobacco prevention programs.

The tobacco products that are the subject of these bills kill more than 400,000 Americans every year. They cause one of every five deaths in the United States, including nearly one out of every three deaths from cancer, one out of every five deaths from heart disease and 87 percent of all lung cancer cases. They addict 3,000 more kids each day, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result. In fact, 90 percent of all smokers begin at or before age 18.

The evidence is powerful and clear: The tobacco companies have not changed and the toll of death and disease caused by their products continues to mount. Only Congress can protect the American people, and especially our kids, by enacting legislation to grant the FDA effective authority over tobacco. Unless Congress acts, cigarettes, this nation's most dangerous product, will remain this nation's most unregulated product.