On Fifth Anniversary of Landmark Tobacco Law, Leading Health Groups Call on FDA to Prioritize Three Actions To Accelerate Progress Against Tobacco Use

Priorities Should Include Regulation of All Tobacco Products, First-Ever Tobacco Product Standards and Graphic Health Warnings on Cigarettes

June 19, 2014 Categories: Advocacy News

WASHINGTON, DC – On the fifth anniversary of the landmark 2009 law granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products, 10 leading public health and medical organizations today commended the FDA for the steps it has taken to reduce tobacco use and called on the FDA and the Obama Administration to take three urgent and bold actions to accelerate progress.

The following joint statement was issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Legacy, National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, and Tobacco Control Legal Consortium.

Joint Statement by Leading Public Health and Medical Organizations

On June 22, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which granted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products.  This landmark law created an unprecedented opportunity for the federal government to address the enormous public health problems posed by tobacco use, the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.

On the fifth anniversary of this law, our organizations commend the FDA for the important steps it has taken to reduce tobacco use, especially among kids.  We now call on the FDA and the Obama Administration to take even stronger and bolder action to accelerate progress and ultimately end the tobacco epidemic for good.  Specifically, we call on the FDA and the Administration to take three priority actions:

  • Extend the FDA’s jurisdiction to all tobacco products, with no exceptions: On April 25, the FDA issued a proposed rule (called the deeming rule) to begin regulating tobacco products not currently under its jurisdiction, including electronic cigarettes and cigars.  Within 12 months (no later than April 25, 2015), the FDA should issue a complete, effective final rule with no exceptions and address critically important issues not addressed in the proposed rule, such as marketing and flavorings that appeal to kids. The FDA should take even faster action to require child-proof packaging on nicotine-containing liquids to address the skyrocketing number of calls to poison control centers related to the nicotine liquids used in e-cigarettes.
  • Issue the first-ever product standard governing the design and content of tobacco products.  The FDA should issue a final product standard to reduce the toxicity, addictiveness and/or appeal of cigarettes and other tobacco products in light of the Surgeon General’s conclusion that cigarettes today are more deadly than 50 years ago and the FDA’s conclusion that menthol increases youth cigarette use.  This is one of the most powerful tools provided by the 2009 law, and the FDA should utilize it in light of two recent reports: 1) The latest Surgeon General’s report on tobacco and health, issued in January, found that cigarettes today pose an ever greater risk of lung cancer than 50 years ago, when the first Surgeon General’s report was issued.  The new report attributed this increased risk to “changes in the design and composition of cigarettes.”  2) The FDA’s report on menthol cigarettes, issued in July 2013, found that menthol cigarettes lead to increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults, greater addiction and decreased success in quitting smoking.
  • Require large, graphic cigarette warning labels that comply with the 2009 law and can withstand legal challenges.  The FDA should issue a final rule that requires graphic warnings covering the top 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs, as the 2009 law requires, and that complies with First Amendment requirements.  The FDA retains the authority to require such warnings because, while one federal appellate court blocked the specific warning labels the FDA initially developed, a separate federal appellate court upheld the law’s underlying requirement for large, graphic warnings.  The U.S. needs to update its woefully outdated and nearly invisible cigarette warnings and catch up with the more than 60 countries that now require graphic warnings.  The evidence shows that graphic warnings are most effective at informing consumers about the health risks of smoking, discouraging children and other nonsmokers from starting to smoke, and motivating smokers to quit.

These three actions will build on the steps the FDA has taken and more fully utilize the broad authority the 2009 law granted to the FDA to significantly reduce tobacco use in the United States.  The FDA has already taken important actions.  It has restricted tobacco marketing, especially to children; ended the sale of candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes that appealed to kids; cracked down on illegal tobacco sales to kids; banned misleading health claims about cigarettes such as “light” and “low-tar;” and launched a national media campaign to prevent youth tobacco use.  These actions are helping to reduce tobacco use and save lives in the United States.

However, as the latest Surgeon General’s report made clear, our nation’s tobacco epidemic calls for even bolder actions. While the U.S. has made tremendous progress in reducing tobacco use, the Surgeon General found that smoking still kills 480,000 Americans each year, sickens millions more and costs the nation at least $289 billion in health care bills and other economic losses each year.

The report also laid out a roadmap of specific actions that must be taken to accelerate progress against tobacco.  These actions include “[e]ffective implementation of FDA’s authority for tobacco product regulation in order to reduce tobacco product addictiveness and harmfulness.”

As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report and the fifth anniversary of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, our organizations call on the FDA and the Obama Administration to take action that can create a tobacco-free generation and end the tobacco epidemic for good.

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For media inquiries, please contact Retha Sherrod at 202-785-7929 or retha.sherrod@heart.org.


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