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House Leaders Jeopardize Tobacco Buyout By Opposing FDA Tobacco Authority

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
September 29, 2004

Washington, DC — Overwhelming majorities of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are prepared to pass a tobacco buyout if paired with U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over manufactured tobacco products. However, a handful of House leaders are jeopardizing the buyout by opposing FDA tobacco authority. It is clear that the buyout lacks public or Congressional support unless it is linked with FDA authority.

If Congress is to pass the buyout this year, it is imperative that tobacco-state members of the House urge their leadership to support both FDA tobacco authority and a buyout. The coming days are critical now that the House today appointed its members of the conference committee to negotiate a final version of the FSC/ETI tax bill, including whether it will include FDA authority and the buyout. We need a comprehensive solution that includes FDA authority to address the public health crisis caused by tobacco use and a tobacco buyout to address the economic crisis facing tobacco farmers.

Even in the six leading tobacco-growing states, the buyout lacks public support unless it is paired with FDA authority. Tobacco state voters support FDA tobacco authority by a margin of 65 percent to 26 percent, but oppose a buyout by a margin of 53 percent to 29 percent, according to a poll conducted Aug. 30-Sept. 1. By a 20-point margin (50 percent to 30 percent), these voters prefer a buyout paired with FDA authority to a buyout without FDA authority. Voters in the tobacco states, like voters across the country, support FDA tobacco authority to protect kids from tobacco addiction and save lives.

FDA authority is the key to winning support for a buyout in Congress as well. The U.S. Senate on July 15 voted 78 to 15 in favor of the combined buyout and FDA authority. The FDA provisions accounted for most of those votes, the majority of which came from Senators outside the tobacco-growing states. In the only vote in Congress on the buyout alone, the House of Representatives on July 13 voted to prohibit the government from spending taxpayer funds on a buyout. These votes demonstrate that the only way to guarantee a buyout is passed this year is to combine the buyout with the FDA tobacco authority legislation passed by the Senate. If tobacco-state members of Congress fail to support this approach and convince their leaders to support this approach, they are putting the buyout at risk.