3,452 Parents and Grandparents Urge President Obama to Protect Children from All Tobacco Products | American Lung Association

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3,452 Parents and Grandparents Urge President Obama to Protect Children from All Tobacco Products

Letter Asks President to Direct FDA to Finalize Rule Regulating All Tobacco Products, and Reject Exemption for Some Cigars

(April 23, 2015) - Chicago, IL

Today, the American Lung Association sent President Barack Obama a letter signed by 3,452 parents and grandparents from all 50 states, asking him to protect our nation’s children from all tobacco products. The letter asks the President to direct the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move forward with oversight over the manufacture, sales and marketing of all tobacco products including cigars, e-cigarettes and hookah.

“It’s been a year since the FDA issued it proposed rule regulating all tobacco products and four years since FDA first announced its intention to regulate e-cigarettes. The American Lung Association and concerned parents and grandparents across the nation are calling for an end to the delays and for FDA to assert its authority to protect our kids from tobacco products and marketing aimed at addicting our children,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Now is time for the Obama Administration to act.”

On April 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing a dramatic increase in use of unregulated e-cigarettes and hookah by youth. E-cigarette use among both high school and middle school students has tripled in one year, increasing from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014 among high school students, and from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014 among middle school students. The results show that in only a few years of being on the market, youth use of e-cigarettes has now surpassed youth cigarette smoking. 

The FDA currently regulates cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco under the landmark 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The Lung Association has repeatedly called on the Obama Administration to direct FDA to assert its authority over all tobacco products including cigars, hookah and electronic cigarettes, and prohibiting the use of flavorings that appeal to kids. The Lung Association is also urging the White House to reject a proposal to exempt so-called “premium cigars.”

“We are deeply concerned about a proposed ‘sweetheart deal’ that would exempt so-called ‘premium cigars’ from basic FDA oversight,” said Wimmer. “Data shows that as prices and regulations drive young smokers away from cigarettes, more and more they are turning to other tobacco products such as cigars and hookah, which carry many of the same devastating addictive and health risks as cigarettes. Cigars are now being manufactured in a multitude of fruit and candy flavors and marketed in a way that appeals to kids. These products must not be exempt from FDA regulation.”

In their letter, parents and grandparents wrote the president: “For decades, the cigarette industry advertised with cartoons, celebrity spokespeople, candy-flavored products and misleading health claims to hook America’s children. Today, e-cigarette and cigar companies are using the same tactics. The results are frightening. High school boys now smoke cigars at the same rate as they do cigarettes, and e-cigarette use among high school students has tripled in just three years.”

In comments submitted to the FDA in August 2014, the American Lung Association called for the following specific actions:

The FDA should issue a final rule asserting jurisdiction over all tobacco products. The FDA should also immediately begin to close regulatory gaps in its proposal and finalize any additional rules needed to close those gaps by that same date

The FDA should not exempt so-called “premium cigars” from regulation. The FDA’s proposed rule includes an option for such an exemption. CDC data shows that kids, and not just adults, smoke cigars. A recent CDC survey showing that high school boys now smoke cigars at the same rate as cigarettes (16.5 percent for cigars and 16.4 percent for cigarettes).

The FDA should apply the same sales and marketing restrictions that currently apply to cigarettes to the newly-regulated products. The FDA’s proposed rule would prohibit sales to children under 18, require retailers to verify age for all over-the-counter sales and restrict vending machines to adult-only facilities. FDA is urged to go further by extending other regulations that apply to cigarettes, including prohibiting self-service displays that make tobacco products more accessible to kids and restricting marketing such as brand name sponsorship of events. FDA should also prohibit online sales of the newly-regulated products, or at the very least, impose tougher age verification requirements on internet sellers.

The FDA should prohibit the use of “characterizing flavors” in cigars, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. The 2009 law prohibited the use of candy and fruit flavorings in cigarettes. An extension of this prohibition is justified in light of the commonplace use of candy and fruit flavors in cigars and e-cigarette products, which appeal young people and marketing of those products in ways that enhance their appeal to young people.

The FDA should require child-resistant packing of nicotine liquid products. Such a rule is needed to address a dramatic increase in calls to poison control centers involving nicotine poisoning of children exposed to the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes.

The FDA should revise its flawed cost-benefit analysis of the proposed rule that led the agency to vastly underestimate the likely benefits. Among other flaws, the FDA slashed its estimated benefits of the rule by 70 percent to account for the “pleasure” smokers lose if they quit smoking as a result of the regulations. In July of last year, nine leading economists submitted a paper to the FDA that faulted the agency for inappropriately applying this concept to tobacco regulations.

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, tobacco use and tobacco policies, contact the American Lung Association at media@lung.org or 312-801-7628.

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