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.
Nation Takes Critical Steps Forward in Tobacco Regulation
In advance of World No Tobacco Day at the end of the month, there has been some pretty tremendous movement in tobacco control in the United States over the past week. At the federal level, the long wait for broad tobacco regulation is over. Last week, after years of hard work by ACS CAN staff, volunteers, and tobacco control partners, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the final deeming rule spelling out its authority to regulate all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, cigars, and hookah. This was a significant and necessary step to protect the public health of the nation and prevent the tobacco industry from continuing to invent ways to addict children to its deadly products. In addition to announcing the regulation of e-cigarettes and other products that have become increasingly popular with teens, the FDA decided to regulate so-called premium cigars as these products pose no less health risk than other cigars. Under the final rule, which takes effect in August, retailers may no longer sell any tobacco products to those under the age of 18 and the tobacco industry will be required to place warning labels on their products and advertisements. The rule also prohibits tobacco companies from using unproven health claims, such as light or mild, on their products or handing out free samples. Additionally, the rule puts in place a review process for the newly deemed tobacco products requiring manufacturers to receive an order from the FDA before the product can be sold or continue being sold if its already on the market. The final deeming rule is just the beginning of the regulatory process. To maximize its potential to impact public health, the FDA should use its authority to rein in the tobacco industry's deceitful and aggressive marketing practices and prohibit flavorings that are attractive to youth. The agency is reviewing the process of characterizing flavorings in cigars, and we urge the FDA to do the same for other tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and hookah. The announcement of the deeming rule came just a few hours after California Governor Jerry Brown signed five tobacco control bills into law, including one to regulate e-cigarettes like traditional tobacco products. The California tobacco legislation package also expanded the state's smoke-free workplace law. With this action, the U.S. population covered by a comprehensive smoke-free law will soon increase from 49.8 percent to 58.6 percent. Other bills signed by the governor will raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21, making California the second state after Hawaii to pass this legislation; broaden the state's tobacco-free school laws to cover all school property at all times; and increase the licensing fees for distributing and selling tobacco products. May has proven to be significant month in the fight against tobacco, but there's still more work to be done. Let's celebrate the great gains we've made but continue we can't rest when there is much more work to be done. ACS CAN looks forward to working at the local, state, and federal levels to pass tobacco control laws and strengthen policies that prevent kids from smoking, help current users quit, and ultimately save more lives.