U.S. House Rejects Rep. Stearns’ Amendment to Give $392 Million Gift to Big Tobacco

Amendment Would Cripple Efforts to Protect Kids from Tobacco

Washington, D.C. (June 17, 2011)


Statement of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and American Lung Association

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected an amendment offered to an appropriations bill by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) that would have given a $392 million gift to the tobacco industry and crippled efforts to protect kids from tobacco.

The Stearns amendment would have reduced by $392 million the user fees tobacco companies are required to pay to fund the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, which regulates tobacco products to protect children and public health. It would have cut the Center’s fiscal year 2012 funding by 82 percent, from $477 million to just $85 million, severely curtailing the Center’s ability to do its job.

The Stearns amendment would have done nothing to save money for taxpayers or reduce the budget deficit. It would have saved money only for the tobacco companies. That is because funding for the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products comes entirely from user fees paid by tobacco companies. By law, these user fees can only be used to regulate tobacco products. In fact, the Stearns amendment likely would have added to the deficit by increasing tobacco-related health care costs, which total nearly $100 billion a year, including billions paid by taxpayers through Medicaid, Medicare and other government health programs.

The House rejected the Stearns amendment 257 to 164 during consideration of the appropriations bill that funds the FDA and other agencies.

In 2009, Congress passed a bipartisan law – the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act – that gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products, which are the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and kill more than 400,000 Americans each year. Under the law, the FDA has curtailed tobacco marketing and sales to kids, banned deceptive cigarette labels such as “light” and “low-tar”, banned candy-flavored cigarettes that appeal to kids, and developed large, graphic warning labels that will be required on all cigarette packs.

The Stearns amendment would have undermined the FDA’s ability to carry out these and other actions that protect kids and save lives. It would have resulted in more kids become addicted to tobacco, more death and disease from tobacco, and higher tobacco-related care costs. It was a special-interest giveaway to the tobacco industry that the House of Representatives rightly rejected. Since 1997, Mr. Stearns has received $54,500 in campaign contributions from tobacco company political action committees.

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