Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

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There's No Time to Waste in Our Fight Against Big Tobacco

December 6, 2019

Amidst the current public health crisis of unprecedented rates of youth tobacco use, every day elected officials delay taking comprehensive action to prohibit all flavored tobacco products is another day the tobacco industry preys on our children, luring them into a lifetime of addiction. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that nearly 70% of middle and high school students who currently use tobacco report the use of flavored products. More than 6 million middle and high school students currently use tobacco products, a disturbing number fueled by the proliferation of flavored products on the market that Big Tobacco uses to target, attract and addict youth. ACS CAN has long urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to exercise its full authority to remove all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, from the market; yet, the agency continues to delay and shirk its responsibility to protect the next generation from addictive tobacco products.

Nearly three months have passed since the Trump administration announced its intention to clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol flavors. ACS CAN and the public health community have staunchly advocated for the immediate implementation and enforcement of the proposal by launching an advertising campaign calling on the Administration to prioritize children over tobacco industry profits. ACS CAN CEO Gary Reedy also met directly with President Trump at the White House to emphasize our support for his original plan. To date, the Administration has failed to take any significant step toward protecting children from the addictive, dangerous products marketed to them by the tobacco industry. We continue to call on the FDA to immediately exert the full extent of its regulatory authority over all tobacco products by removing all flavored products, reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes to non-addictive levels and cracking down on the advertising and marketing practices of the tobacco industry.

It is important to highlight that state and local policymakers are addressing this issue in the absence of meaningful federal action. From California to New York, state legislatures and city councils have implemented measures to address the youth tobacco crisis. Just last week, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.  Coupled with additional requirements for health care coverage for FDA-approved cessation services, significant fines for retailers caught selling products to those underage and increased taxes on e-cigarettes, this comprehensive landmark victory is a model for the nation. 

Amidst the frenzy of action and policy proposals related to the skyrocketing rates of flavored e-cigarette use, it’s critical to note that ACS CAN’s commitment to protect the public’s health from the dangers of Big Tobacco extends far beyond the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. Use of addictive, deadly tobacco products represents a staggering burden on our nation’s health, a burden that demands comprehensive, evidence-based approaches that work in conjunction with each other to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

ACS CAN staff and volunteers across the country have long worked, with tremendous success, to advance policy interventions at the federal, state and local levels that are proven to effectively reduce tobacco use, including: advocating for regular and significant tobacco tax increases of at least $1 per pack of cigarettes, with equivalent rates on other tobacco products; implementing strong, comprehensive smoke-free laws; and securing sustained funding for evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs. These policies are the cornerstone of ACS CAN’s broader tobacco control agenda and are critical to our success in protecting youth from a lifetime of addiction. In addition, we work with our public health partners nationwide to advance strong policies, without carve outs supported by the tobacco industry, that increase the legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21 and restrict access to these addictive products through retailers.   

The fight to stop the tobacco industry’s dangerous hold on our country’s health is ever-changing and demands strong, comprehensive public policies to be effective. Our statement to the President, to Congress and to policymakers across the country has always been, and always will be, clear and unequivocal: there is no time to waste. We need to stand up to Big Tobacco and protect everyone – particularly our children – from all tobacco products, and we need to do it now.