You Have the Power to Protect Me from America's #1 Cause of Preventable Death

Every year, tobacco use costs the U.S. $96 billion in health care costs and another $97 billion in lost productivity. Exposure to secondhand smoke adds another $10 billion in medical costs and productivity losses. FDA regulation of tobacco products is an essential component of comprehensive health care reform and will protect Americans from the number one cause of preventable death and disease.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans and costing $96 billion in health care costs every year.[i]  Every day, approximately 3,500 kids will try a cigarette for the first time, and another 1,000 will become new, regular smokers.[ii] One-third of these kids will eventually die prematurely as a result of their addiction.[iii]  

Interventions such as taxes on tobacco products, smoke-free air laws and prevention and cessation programs are proven to reduce tobacco use among both youth and adults.  Research indicates that for every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes, overall cigarette consumption is reduced by about three to five percent.[iv]  For example, Texas recently increased its cigarette tax by $1 per pack, and consumption over the following year dropped by more than 20 percent.[v]

Smoke-free air laws are an additional tool that improves health by reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.  According to the U.S. Surgeon General, secondhand smoke contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals and is a proven cause of disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults.[vi]

FDA regulation of tobacco products is another critical step to protect children from tobacco addiction and improve health care and public health.  The Institute of Medicine, the President’s Cancer Panel and other public health experts have all concluded that FDA regulation of tobacco products is an essential component of a comprehensive strategy to accelerate declines in tobacco use – and eventually eliminate the death and disease it causes.[vii]

Despite tobacco’s huge societal costs, tobacco products are virtually unregulated to protect public health; they are exempt from important and basic consumer protections, such as ingredient disclosure, product testing and restrictions on marketing to children.  

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports granting the FDA the authority and resources to effectively regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. Legislation now before Congress would:

  • Restrict tobacco advertising and promotions, especially to children.
  • Stop illegal sales of tobacco products to children.
  • Require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco packages and advertising.
  • Ban misleading health claims such as “light” and “low-tar” and strictly regulate all health claims about tobacco products to ensure they are scientifically proven and do not discourage current tobacco users from quitting or encourage new users to start.
  • Require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products, as well as changes in products and research about their health effects.
  • 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.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation joins more than 1,000 public health, faith and other organizations from around the country, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in support of FDA regulation of tobacco products.  With surveys showing 70 percent of U.S. voters also supporting this common sense approach, we can’t afford to wait another day. 

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[i] CDC, “Annual Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses—United States 2000-2004,” MMWR 57(45):1226-1228, November 14, 2008, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5745a3.htm.

[ii]Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS), Results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2008.

[iii] CDC, “Projected Smoking-Related Deaths Among Youth-United States,” MMWR, 45(44):971-974, November 8, 1996, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/wk/mm4544.pdf.

[iv] See, e.g., Chaloupka, F, “Macro-Social Influences: The Effects of Prices and Tobacco Control Policies on the Demand for Tobacco Products,” Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 1999; other studies at http://tigger.uic.edu/fjc/; Tauras, J, “Public Policy and Smoking Cessation Among Young Adults in the United States,” Health Policy 6*:321-32, 2004; Tauras, J, et al., “Effects of Price and Access Laws on Teenage Smoking Initiation:  A National Longitudinal Analysis,” Bridging the Gap Research, ImpacTeen, April 24, 2001, and others at http://www.impacteen.org/researchproducts.htm.  Chaloupka, F & Pacula, R, An Examination of Gender and Race Differences in Youth Smoking Responsiveness to Price and Tobacco Control Policies, National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 6541, April 1998, http://tigger.uic.edu/fjc; Emery, S, et al., “Does Cigarette Price Influence Adolescent Experimentation?,” Journal of Health Economics 20:261-270, 2001; Evans, W  & Huang, L, Cigarette Taxes and Teen Smoking: New Evidence from Panels of Repeated Cross-Sections, working paper, April 15, 1998, www.bsos.umd.edu/econ/evans/wrkpap.htm; Harris, J & Chan, S, “The Continuum-of-Addiction: Cigarette Smoking in Relation to Price Among Americans Aged 15-29,” Health Economics Letters 2(2):3-12, February 1998, www.mit.edu/people/jeffrey.

[v]Orzechowski & Walker, The Tax Burden on Tobacco monthly reports.

[vi]U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006.

[vii] Institute of Medicine (IOM), Ending the tobacco problem: A blueprint for the nation, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007, http://www.iom.edu/CMS/3793/20076/43179.aspx.  President’s Cancer Panel, Promoting Healthy Lifestyles, 2006-2007 Annual Report, August 2007, http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/pcp07rpt/pcp07rpt.pdf.

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