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Public Health Groups Strongly Support Bipartisan FDA Tobacco Legislation Introduced Today In Congress

Statement of American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 20, 2004

Washington, DC — Our public health organizations strongly support the bipartisan legislation introduced today in both the House and Senate to provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with effective authority to regulate tobacco products. This legislation presents Congress with a truly historic opportunity to protect our children from tobacco addiction and address the number one preventable cause of death in our nation. We applaud U.S. Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and U.S. Representatives Tom Davis (R-VA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) for their leadership in producing strong bills that put protection of the public health first. We urge both the Senate and the House to quickly enact this legislation into law and to resist all efforts to weaken it.

Every year in America, tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people and costs our nation more than $75 billion in health care bills. Every day, another 2,000 kids become regular smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result. Yet tobacco products are virtually unregulated to protect consumers’ health and safety. For decades, the tobacco companies have marketed their deadly products to our children, deceived consumers about the harm their products cause, and failed to take any meaningful action to make their products less harmful or less addictive. The legislation introduced today would finally end the special protection enjoyed by the tobacco industry and protect our children and the nation’s health instead.

This legislation meets the standards long established by the public health community for a strong FDA tobacco regulation bill that protects the public health. It would give the FDA the necessary tools and resources to effectively regulate the manufacturing, marketing, labeling, distribution and sale of tobacco products. The FDA would have the authority to:

  • Restrict advertising and promotions that appeal to children.
  • Stop illegal sales of tobacco products to children.
  • Require changes in tobacco products, such as the reduction or elimination of harmful chemicals, to make them less harmful or less addictive.
  • Prohibit unsubstantiated health claims about so-called “reduced risk” tobacco products that would have the effect of discouraging current tobacco users from quitting or encouraging new users to start.
  • Require the disclosure of the contents of tobacco products and tobacco industry research about the health effects of their products.
  • Require larger and more informative health warnings on tobacco products.

While this legislation represents an important step forward, we remain concerned that opponents of effective FDA tobacco regulation will seek to weaken or kill the bill at every opportunity. The public health community has already made significant compromises to achieve bipartisan FDA legislation that both protects the public health and can pass in this Congress. For example, while protecting the FDA’s authority to require changes to reduce the harm caused by tobacco products, this legislation reserves to Congress the authority to ban a whole class of tobacco products, such as cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products, or to reduce nicotine levels to zero. This bill represents the bottom line of the public health community and any weakening would lose our support. Our organizations are committed to doing everything we can to pass this strong FDA legislation that protects the public health, but we are equally committed to defeating any weak legislation that falls short of this goal.