Congress Moves One Step Closer to Ending Big Tobacco’s Reign of Deception

(March 4, 2009)

Statement of Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association President and CEO:

Today in Washington, the Congress has moved one big step closer to ending the grip Big Tobacco has on our nation’s health. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee sent the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (HR 1256) to the full House for its consideration. Passage of this important bill will provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urgently needed regulatory control over the tobacco industry.

For decades, the tobacco industry has artfully disguised its deadly products to lure teens and children to buy their cigarettes; each day more than 1,100 kids become regular, daily smokers. The sad reality is that half of those young girls and boys will ultimately die from smoking related illnesses in their adult years.

The American Lung Association urges the full House to quickly pass this important bill and send it over to the U.S. Senate for its consideration. Last July, the House passed the legislation by an overwhelming vote of 326 to 102. Despite having 60 sponsors, the Senate ran out of time to consider the legislation. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

Tobacco-caused diseases remain the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Currently, tobacco products are one of the only consumer products that have avoided any sort of basic government oversight. Tobacco control must be at the heart of any meaningful discussion around health care reform – especially regarding wellness and prevention. FDA authority over manufactured tobacco products will finally allow our nation to begin to take significant steps to reduce the tobacco-caused death toll that claims 442,000 lives each year and results in $193 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity. This important legislation will provide the FDA the authority to stop the tobacco companies from advertising to children, making misleading health claims about its deadly products and from manipulating their products to make them increasingly more addictive.