Report favors increased federal regulation of tobacco

Analysis says move would save country, state billions of dollars


NEW BRUNSWICK – A new report released by the Campaign for Tobacco- Free Kids says that if the U.S. Congress passes legislation to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] new authority to regulate tobacco products, the new law would save the state $1.1 billion in tobacco-related health-care costs by keeping 65,700 New Jersey kids from becoming new smokers.

“This critical legislation [HR-1108] ensures that tobacco products are not marketed or sold to our children and provides consumers with essential health information about tobacco products,” said Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6), a co-sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Congressional Health, Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over issues pertaining to energy, environment, health care, commerce and telecommunications.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leader in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences in the United States and around the world.

According to the American Heart Association, tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing about $100 billion in healthcare bills each year.

In January 2007, Pallone was chosen by his colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee to chair the subcommittee on health.

The subcommittee has sole jurisdiction over Medicaid, the FDA, the National Institutes of Health [NIH] and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], and shares jurisdiction of Medicare with the Ways and Means Committee. It oversees public health, biomedical programs, food and drug safety, mental health and research, hospital construction, and all health-care homeland security-related concerns.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed the legislation Aug. 1; however, the legislation is still pending before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In February 2007, two new bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress designed to give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products: HR-1108 sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman (DCalif.) and Tom Davis (R-Va.), and S-625, sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (DMass.) and Jon Cornyn (R-Texas).

According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Web site, New Jersey tobacco use causes $3.17 billion in health-care bills each year and kills 11,300 residents; 15.8 percent (75,000) of New Jersey high school students currently smoke, and 168,000 children now under 18 years old and alive in New Jersey will ultimately die prematurely from smoking.

“As the parent of three children, I share many parents’ concerns about the dangerous practice of tobacco advertising targeted at our youth,” said Pallone.

In 1996, the FDA asserted jurisdiction over tobacco products under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act. These regulations were designed to regulate tobacco advertising and promotional campaigns as well as labeling and purchasing restrictions. The tobacco industry sued the federal government, arguing that the FDA lacked legal authority to regulate tobacco products.

The legislation pending in Congress – S-625 and HR-1108 – would give the FDA increased authority over the marketing of tobacco products sold in this country. Among other things, the bill sets forth criteria for when a tobacco product can be deemed misbranded or adulterated, allows the government to require prior approval of all label statements, prohibits cigarettes to come in any flavor except tobacco or menthol, and mandates premarket approval for all new tobacco products.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ new report, released in November, is based on an analysis conducted by the Congressional Budget Office.

According to the analysis, within the first five years of the FDA bill’s implementation, it would reduce youth smoking by 12.5 percent nationwide; would prevent 2.5 million kids from becoming smokers; save more than 797,000 kids from premature, smoking-caused deaths; and produce 4.4 billion in health-care savings, including $7.9 billion under the Medicaid program. Each one-percentage-point decline in adult smoking would result in $21.7 billion in health-care savings, including $3.8 billion under Medicaid, and 2.3 million fewer adult smokers, resulting in 606,000 fewer deaths from smoking.

In New Jersey, the reduction in youth smoking would prevent 65,700 kids from becoming smokers, save 21,000 kids from premature, smoking-caused deaths; and reduce future health-care costs by $1.1 billion, including $242.5 million less in Medicaid program spending.

The FDA bills would also see health and financial benefits from reductions in adult smoking.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ report estimates that every one-percentage point reduction in adult smoking in New Jersey would result in $629.9 million in health-care savings, 66,300 fewer adult smokers, and 17,600 fewer deaths from smoking.

For more information visit www.tobac