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Senate Vote Affirms Support for FDA Authority Over Tobacco, But House Leaders Thwart Will of the Majority

Statement of American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
October 10, 2009

Washington, DC — The U.S. Senate's vote today to affirm support for granting the FDA authority over tobacco products underscores the broad, bipartisan consensus in Congress for granting the FDA this life-saving authority. The public overwhelmingly supports FDA authority over tobacco, and we are confident that a strong majority of the House would pass this legislation as well if only House leaders would allow a vote. Unfortunately, a handful of powerful House leaders continue to block a vote, and America's kids and health will pay the price. Today's Senate vote shows that the Senate considers FDA authority over tobacco to be a top priority issue that it intends to pursue until this legislation is enacted and that supporters will seek every opportunity to enact it into law.

Every day Congress fails to act, another 1,200 Americans will die from tobacco use and another 2,000 children will become addicted. The small minority blocking FDA authority over tobacco bears direct responsibility for our nation's failure to reduce this terrible toll, and they should be held accountable. Until Congress grants the FDA authority over tobacco, the tobacco companies will be free to continue selling candy-flavored cigarettes and engage in other marketing that appeals to children. They will continue to mislead consumers and discourage smokers from quitting by making unproven claims that some tobacco products are safer than others. They will continue to hide the truth about the dangers of their products and fail to take even the most minimal steps to reduce the number of Americans who die from tobacco use.

Granting the FDA authority over tobacco is one of the most important steps Congress could ever take to protect the health of our children and significantly reduce the fearsome diseases caused by smoking, including cancer, heart disease, emphysema and many others. We are heartened that Congress this year came closer than ever before to enacting FDA authority into law, but we are profoundly disappointed that this historic opportunity to protect the nation's children and the nation's health was squandered.

We are deeply grateful to the members of Congress who have courageously pursued enactment of this legislation, especially its sponsors, Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Tom Davis (R-VA). Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), John McCain (R-AZ) and many others have been vociferous and effective advocates for this legislation as well. They are true champions of our nation's children and our nation's health.