Our Mission in Action: Implementation of the Tobacco Control Act

(August 21, 2014)

Reducing illness and death caused by tobacco use is central to the American Lung Association’s mission. Federal tobacco regulations must be robust to help reduce tobacco use across the nation.  When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed its “deeming rule” that would extend oversight to previously unregulated tobacco products including e-cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, hookah, pipe tobacco and other products, the American Lung Association and partner health organizations provided detailed comments to guide the FDA to a decision that will best protect the public health.

On August 8, the Lung Association submitted a set of comprehensive comments to the commissioner of the FDA, spelling out critical priorities the FDA should consider to set a strong, final tobacco rule. Our comments highlighted that FDA must follow the mandate of the bipartisan Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA), which became law in 2009.  Specifically we reminded FDA that it must take into account public health – in other words, the impact on users, nonusers and whether people will start, relapse or not quit their tobacco use.

We also called for FDA to exert basic authority over all tobacco products, with an emphasis on including all cigars. FDA must have basic authority over all cigars and not give a “sweetheart deal” for “premium” cigars that would exempt them from even the most basic of FDA oversight.  The health risks of cigar smoking are well documented and more and more young people are turning to cigars as their gateway to tobacco.

Further we called for a focus on protecting the health and wellbeing of our children.  Most smokers start before the age of 18. The FDA must consider the impact on our children’s health as they create rules concerning cigars and e-cigarettes. This means prohibiting flavored cigars and e-cig cartridges (which appeal to kids), child-proof containers and other provisions that will help keep kids from starting a life of addiction to deadly products.

You can see all of our comments to the FDA here along with comments submitted with our other health partners.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and a primary cause of lung disease. Tobacco kills 480,000 Americans each year and another 16 million Americans suffer from a tobacco-caused disease. Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke are the overwhelming causes of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  Because of the enormous toll of tobacco, we urged that FDA finalize the deeming rule as soon as possible. We called for the rule to be final by December 31, 2014 but certainly no later than April 25, 2015.

Would you like to join our fight to protect our kids and future generations from tobacco?  Raise your voice by joining our Lung Action Network.  You can learn about volunteer opportunities in your own community, or make a donation to support our lifesaving mission. And be sure to follow us on social media to keep up with all we’re doing to help us all breathe easier and lead healthier lives.