President Gives FDA Tobacco Authority

Historic law will protect kids, help smokers quit.

    • June 22, 2009

President Obama signed historic legislation today granting the Food and Drug Administration sweeping authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act represents the strongest action the U.S. has ever taken to reduce tobacco use, the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that youth smoking will drop 11 percent over the next decade and adult smoking will drop by 2 percent.

“It's a victory for health care reform, as it will reduce some of the billions we spend on tobacco-related health care costs in this country,” President Obama said during the signing ceremony. You can watch the president’s full speech here.

“The legislation the president signed today is an important part of the health debate now under way in Congress,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Tobacco use is a contributing factor to dozens of diseases and conditions that impact Americans, and accounts for $96 billion each year in health care costs. This groundbreaking legislation is a big investment in prevention that will help all Americans lead healthier lives.”

The Foundation has taken a leading role in reducing tobacco use in partnership with many public health organizations and RWJF grantees, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which took a leading role in pushing for the FDA legislation.  However, additional policy changes are needed to reduce the number of children who currently smoke and to help millions more adult Americans quit tobacco.

State and local governments must step up efforts to adopt and implement scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke, including:

  • Erasing huge disparities in tobacco tax rates: While the average state tobacco tax has increased from 43.4 cents to $1.27 cents per pack since 2002, major tobacco-growing states have an average state tobacco tax of just 38.5 cents per pack. Disparities in the tax rates coincide with higher rates of tobacco use and tobacco-related disease and death.
  • To date, 27 states have passed smoke-free workplace laws that cover restaurants and bars. It is crucial that every state do so.
  • Every state should fund programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit at the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No state currently funds such programs at CDC-recommended levels and only 9 states currently fund such programs at even half the CDC’s recommended levels. That situation has worsened in the past year as states significantly cut funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs in the face of budget shortfalls.

June 12, 2009—Update: The House of Representatives approved the legislation 307 votes to 97 votes on Friday, June 12.  The bill now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it.

June 11, 2009—Bipartisan legislation passed the U.S. Senate today 79 votes to 17 votes, granting the Food and Drug Administration sweeping authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. The House passed similar legislation 298-112 in April, and Congress is expected to quickly send a final bill to President Obama, who has promised to sign it into law.

The legislation represents the strongest action Congress has ever taken to reduce tobacco use, the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

“The long-overdue regulation of tobacco products is an enormous achievement for America’s health,” says Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a grantee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Effectively implemented, this legislation will significantly reduce the number of children who start to use tobacco, the number of adults who continue to use tobacco and the number of people who suffer and die as a result.

”“The Senate bill granting the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco is also an important prelude to the health reform debate now under way in Congress,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Tobacco use is a contributing factor to dozens of diseases and conditions that impact Americans, and accounts for $96 billion each year in health care costs. This groundbreaking legislation is a big investment in prevention that will help all Americans lead healthier lives.”

The legislation will allow the FDA to change the way tobacco is manufactured and marketed in the U.S. Among its provisions, the legislation will: 

  • Restrict tobacco advertising and promotions, especially to children.
  • Require large, graphic health warnings that cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs.
  • Ban misleading health claims such as “light” and “low-tar.”
  • Empower the FDA to require changes in tobacco products, such as the removal or reduction of harmful ingredients or the reduction of nicotine levels.
  • Fully fund the FDA’s new tobacco-related responsibilities with a user fee on tobacco companies so no resources are taken from the FDA’s current work.

 

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