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.
Nationwide Tobacco Control Efforts Mark Great American Smokeout
In the 39 years since the American Cancer Society launched the Great American Smokeout, we've made tremendous progress in reducing smoking rates and saving lives from tobacco use. Yet, 18 percent of adults in the United States still smoke, many teens are using multiple tobacco products and the majority of tobacco products remain unregulated. Our work certainly isn't finished. There are numerous ACS CAN-led activities happening in state capitols and city halls across the country today to commemorate the Great American Smokeout by calling for action on tobacco control policies that are proven to help people quit. Just to name a few:
- In California, an unprecedented coalition of leading voices in health care will gather at the state Capitol to launch a new campaign to save lives and save taxpayer dollars with a new $2-per-pack increase tobacco tax campaign.
- ACS CAN Pennsylvania staff and volunteers will join partners at a press conference in the state Capitol in Harrisburg to launch a cigarette tax increase campaign. The campaign will also focus on creating tax parity with other tobacco products, since Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that does not tax other tobacco products.
- In Albany, N.Y., students will join health care advocates to tout a Smoke Free Generation, which can be possible with strong tobacco control laws.
- ACS CAN staff in New York City will launch a social media campaign to get people talking about why they want to fight smoking. Using the hashtag #FightSmokingNY, people will be asked to post selfies holding signs with their reason to fight smoking.
- In Anchorage, Alaska, ACS CAN staff are hosting a Smoke-Free Alaska Policy Forum to get expert views on the state's smoke-free campaign.
- Colorado State Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar is hosting a press conference to release a statewide Consumer Alert regarding private insurance and Medicaid coverage of cessation services.
- The city of New Orleans launched its smoke-free campaign this week with a New Orleans-style parade and a #SmokeFreeNOLA virtual rally.
This is only a sampling of the good work going on in communities across the nation to pass comprehensive smoke-free laws, increase tobacco taxes and advocate for fully funded tobacco cessation and prevention programs the three things we know work best to help people quit smoking and discourage kids from starting a deadly habit. It's hard to ignore the buzz being generated at the state and local level. Our federal officials must keep the momentum going by taking action. Some actions that need immediate attention:
- It's been more than seven months since the FDA proposed regulating all tobacco products it's time for the FDA to finalize this proposal, even the playing field and ensure our children are protected from the predatory practices of the tobacco industry.
- The FDA released new graphic warning labels more than three years ago that would cover 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs, feature drawings that depict the consequences of smoking and text, such as Cigarettes Cause Cancer.' Disappointingly, those specific graphics were struck down in federal court in 2012, and we urgently need new graphic warnings, proven to work in many other countries, that can encourage adults to quit smoking cigarettes and deter children from starting in the first place.
- It's been five years since Congress increased the federal cigarette tax, which remains stuck at $1.01 per pack. Yet, we know that the president's proposed 94-cent increase in the cigarette tax could keep nearly 1.4 million youth from becoming adult smokers, save about 400,000 adult lives from premature smoking-caused death and save the system more than $55 billion in long-term health care cost savings. It's a win-win-win that Congress has yet to take action on.
Tobacco use remains the largest cause of preventable death in our country. It costs us nearly $300 billion in health care and lost productivity costs every year. The Great American Smokeout is all about making a plan to quit, but we all know quitting smoking isn't easy. Governments at all levels need to step up and take the actions we know work to support the 75 percent of smokers who want to quit for good.