It’s been ten years since the FDA was given the mandate from Congress to fully regulate the tobacco industry and tasked with the critical responsibility of protecting the health of our nation. And still, the FDA has not fulfilled its mission to reduce the deadly toll of tobacco use.
Celebrating Five Years of Tobacco Regulation
Five years ago this week, we celebrated a landmark public health victory as the president signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law. After years of Big Tobacco's unfettered access to the public to peddle its deadly products, the FDA finally had the authority to regulate tobacco products.
Five years later we continue to celebrate this victory and the significant strides the FDA has already made to reduce tobacco use and the disease and death it causes. These actions include banning flavorings in cigarettes that can be attractive to youth, prohibiting the use of misleading claims such as mild and light and requiring tobacco companies to disclose to the FDA ingredients in their cigarettes. Some of these actions, along with our work to pass strong tobacco control laws, have helped to reduce youth cigarette smoking rates to an all-time low as the CDC reported last week. But our work is not done. 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 FDA and the Obama Administration must take even stronger and bolder action to accelerate progress in reducing tobacco use and ultimately ending the tobacco epidemic. That's why we've joined with five other public health organizations to call on the FDA and the Administration to urgently take three priority actions:
- Finalize its proposal to regulate all tobacco products with no exceptions within one year. On April 25, the FDA proposed to begin regulating tobacco products not currently under its jurisdiction, including electronic cigarettes and cigars. We're calling on the FDA to finalize that rule by April 25, 2015, and also address critically important issues not covered in the proposed rule, such as marketing and flavorings that appeal to kids.
- Release the first product standard for the design and content of tobacco products. Under the law, the FDA has the ability to enforce a product standard that could reduce the toxicity, addictiveness and/or appeal of cigarettes and other tobacco products. This is especially important in light of the conclusion of the Surgeon General that cigarettes today are more deadly than 50 years ago and the conclusion of the FDA that menthol increases youth cigarette use.
- Require large, graphic cigarette warning labels that comply with the 2009 law and can withstand legal challenges. 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 25-year-old, nearly invisible cigarette warnings and catch up with the more than 60 countries that now require graphic warnings.
As Dr. Seffrin said in his video, this is one of the most important laws we've seen in our nation's war on cancer. I hope that the FDA and the Administration will work expeditiously to take these actions so we're well on our way to creating a tobacco-free generation and ending the tobacco epidemic for good.