Senate Passes Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act — FDA to Have Unprecedented Powers to Regulate Tobacco

From: American Thoracic Society News Alert for June 11, 2009

In a move that will fundamentally redefine the way the United States regulates tobacco, today the Senate passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1256) by a vote of 79 to 17. This legislation grants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the marketing of tobacco products, specifically marketing designed to mislead consumers or recruit underage smokers.

“It is time that attention is drawn to the long time, intentional targeting of children by the tobacco industry,” said John Heffner, M.D., past president of the ATS. “We have too long tolerated the industry’s efforts to cultivate smokers at a young and vulnerable age to guarantee profit for tobacco producers.”

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act grants the FDA the tools to combat these practices in the tobacco industry and will immediately reduce the ability of tobacco companies to recruit new smokers and limit the devastation caused by tobacco-related disease.

“Throughout my career, I have treated many hundreds of patients who have been devastated by illnesses caused by and related to tobacco addiction. I have also watched countless family members suffer as a result of these illnesses,” said ATS president, J. Randall Curtis, M.D. “This legislation offers us an unprecedented opportunity to stop tobacco addiction before it starts by allowing the FDA to ensure that tobacco products are not marketed to children and that the tobacco industry is required to advertise these products honestly.”

The legislation specifically gives the FDA the authority to:

· Crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to children.
· Ban candy-flavored cigarettes
· Require disclosure of the contents of tobacco products.
· Compel the tobacco industry to research about the health effects of their products.
· Mandate changes in tobacco products such as the removal of harmful ingredients.
· Prohibit terms such as “light”, “mild” and “low-tar” that mislead consumers into believing that certain cigarettes are safer than others.
· Stop marketing claims that may discourage current tobacco users from quitting or persuade potential users to start.
· Require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products.

The House of Representatives passed this legislation by a vote of 298-112 earlier this year.

The legislation will now to go to a conference committee between the House and Senate to resolve the minor differences between the House and Senate versions. President Obama supports the legislation and has pledged to sign it.

Enacting legislation to give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products has been a goal of the ATS since the idea was proposed a decade ago. The Society’s interest in regulating tobacco is longer-standing. The ATS and research published in its journals were cited extensively in the 1964 report Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General, which warned that “cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action.”

Now, 45 years later, legislation has finally been enacted to bring about that appropriate remedial action.

ATS members have been passionate in the support for enacting this legislation and have testified before Congress about the ills of smoking and the need for effective regulation of tobacco products. The ATS has been a vocal supporter of the bill and has featured the FDA tobacco bill on several advocacy days and visits with members of Congress. The ATS believes that enactment of the FDA tobacco bill is the most effective way to reduce tobacco use in the U.S. and to improve respiratory health.

Contact for Commentary: John Heffner, M.D., Past President of the American Thoracic Society
Phone: (503) 215-6258
E-mail: john_heffner@mac.com

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