Representative McIntyre's Tobacco… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Representative McIntyre's Tobacco Bill Does Too little for Farmers and Their Communities and Does Not Advance Public Health

Joint Statement of American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 15, 2002

Washington, DC — Over the past several years, a consensus has been reached between the major tobacco farming organizations and the leaders in public health that strong action is necessary to assist tobacco farmers facing an uncertain future and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be provided effective oversight of manufactured tobacco products. The legislation introduced by Rep. McIntyre (D-NC) misses a golden opportunity to take advantage of the unique coalition of farmers and public health leaders that would join forces to help pass legislation to accomplish these goals.

The leaders of the major tobacco farming organizations tell us that they cannot support the tobacco farmer provisions and we stand united with them on these issues. Effective FDA jurisdiction over manufactured tobacco products is a top priority for public health leaders. We will work hard to enact any bill granting FDA authority that meets our minimum standards, but will also vigorously oppose any bill that falls below those standards. Rep. McIntyre has included language that would grant the FDA authority over tobacco that every major public health organization has previously stated that it will oppose. If this language remains in the McIntyre bill, we will have no choice but to oppose it.

Rep. McIntyre has advanced the debate by recognizing the need for congressional action to assist tobacco farmers and quota holders and the benefit of paying for these actions through a 'user fee' charged to the manufacturers of tobacco products. We are prepared to work with Rep. McIntyre to attempt to translate these concepts into legislation upon which we all agree.

The public health community is prepared to support legislation that provides for fair and equitable compensation to tobacco farmers. We also support replacing the current tobacco program with a new system of licensing that seeks to give farmers and their communities both long term and short term stability. We oppose the elimination of the tobacco program as called for by Rep. McIntyre. The program needs to be restructured, but eliminating the program would destroy many small family farms.

The McIntyre legislation provides a framework for discussion, but it falls short of what farm leaders say they need and what public health leaders say they will support. It provides less money to tobacco farmers and their communities than the leading farm groups have informed us is necessary to prevent serious economic hardship for their families. It's failure to retain any form of price support program is likely to be the death knell for the family tobacco farm and will result in an undeserved financial windfall and transfer of wealth from farmers to the tobacco manufactures in terms of reduced prices for leaf tobacco. It also fails to provide assistance to tobacco farming communities that will be hurt by the enactment of this legislation.

Leaders of the public health community and leaders of the major farming organizations have previously agreed upon a framework for granting the FDA effective authority over manufactured tobacco products while retaining the U.S. Department of Agriculture's authority over leaf production. Rep. McIntyre's FDA proposal does not meet those minimum standards and would not protect the public health.

We support Rep. McIntyre's proposal to fund assistance to tobacco farmers and their communities with a user fee or other source of new revenue. Given the current budget situation, new federal funds, such as those collected through a user fee, are necessary for an effective buyout and FDA regulation of tobacco products. The amount he has proposed, however, is not adequate to do the job.

The public health community is prepared to work with Rep. McIntyre and other Congressional leaders to develop legislation that will truly assist tobacco farmers and their communities and provide meaningful authority for FDA over manufactured tobacco products. His current bill does not do so and, therefore, has no chance of passage because it will be opposed by a unique coalition of major public health and tobacco farmer organizations.