Protecting Americans from tobacco’s damage

By Margaret Hamburg
July 11, 2012

Three years ago, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law. Those of us present knew we were witnessing history. With the stroke of a pen and strong bipartisan support from Congress, the Food and Drug Administration was charged with protecting public health from tobacco use – the nation’s single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death. More than 1,200 people die each day in the United States because of cigarette use. That is one person every 71 seconds. Today, I am pleased to report that the law is working.

In passing the Tobacco Control Act, Congress recognized that the linchpin of any successful strategy to reduce adult tobacco use must be to prevent young people from ever starting. More than 80 percent of adult U.S. smokers begin smoking as teens. Each day more than 3,800 young people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette, and more than 1,000 become daily cigarette smokers. Reversing this trend requires aggressive action on two fronts: reducing the attractiveness of tobacco products to children and ending their access to them. That’s exactly what the FDA is doing.

During our first 12 months of regulating tobacco, the FDA pulled candy and certain other flavored cigarettes off the market; issued tough new regulations to halt sales of cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, and smokeless tobacco to young people; banned brand-name sponsorship of sporting events and concerts; and implemented requirements for new warning labels for smokeless tobacco products. The FDA also has begun funding state authorities to assure vigorous enforcement of these new actions to protect our children.

The FDA’s efforts haven’t just focused on young people. We’re working to make sure all Americans, young and old, understand the true dangers of tobacco use. That’s why the FDA is enforcing the prohibition on misleading labeling and advertising claims, and why, for the first time, tobacco companies are required to report the quantities of harmful or potentially harmful chemicals in the products they make.

The FDA also is requiring graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and ads. Although a lawsuit by tobacco companies has halted implementation of the warning requirements, FDA will continue to fight to keep them so the United States, like dozens of other countries around the globe, can use this effective way to communicate the dangers of smoking to consumers.

Turning back the tide of suffering and death caused by tobacco use won’t be easy.

Today, FDA researchers are beginning to unravel the mysteries of tobacco use and addiction, including the possibilities of reducing the dangers and addictiveness of tobacco products. FDA scientists also are exploring the full spectrum of health consequences of tobacco use and how best to communicate those dangers to the public. Working with other federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, we will meet those challenges.

Much has been done since that day three years ago when the Tobacco Control Act was signed into law by the president in the White House Rose Garden. To the FDA, these achievements represent a solid foundation to build on. I have never been more confident that, together, we can make tobacco-related death and disease part of America’s past, and not America’s future.

PHOTO: Cigarette butts in an ashtray in Los Angeles, May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

13 comments

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It’s really not enough to tell kids of the health risks. Everyone knows smoking is bad for you. We have to make it uncool, point out how tobacco companies target youth to lure them into addiction. The tobacco companies are “the man” that we should rebel against. Another action to take is to make public housing smoke-free. This is vital to protect the health of everyone in the building and to make smoking less normalized to youth.

Posted by Sandi629 | Report as abusive

Kinda sounds like infringement on peoples rights all the way around…really its none of anyone elses business what another person does with themselves…harmful or not. Then in the same sense i dont wanna pay some dumbasses medical bills cuz they were expressing their freedom of choice and got lung cancer. Leave the smokers alone…but if they smoke they gotta foot their own medical bills…

Posted by sidevalve | Report as abusive

I thought tobacco was Lyndon Johnson’s idea to make sure that Social Security can stay solvent.. hmm weird..

Posted by trevorh | Report as abusive

[...] Post By Google News Reuters Blogs Electronic Cigarette [...]

Infringement? Breathing air not mixed with the stench of tobacco smoke is a right. And the best way to ensure that tobacco users pay for their own sickness, rather than impose it on society, is to raise taxes on tobacco, and keep raising them until the stench is completely eliminated.

Posted by Sarasota | Report as abusive

How I wish the smoking “do-gooders” would let up and/or confine themselves to prevention in young people and other areas that do not infringe on smokers’ rights. It’s getting to the point where, if you have a hang-nail, somebody is going to blame it on smoking. Enough already! We’ve got the message.

Posted by dwilliams3 | Report as abusive

I quit, or started to quit, smoking when I saw my teenage years girlfriend’s father die from lung cancer. She was 14 at the time and he spent the last two years of life having his lungs cut out and slowly suffocating to death. His brain died the last two months of his life from lack of oxygen and she watched her father become insane and then a vegetable. It was an awful experience that I doubt many smokers think about when they justify it by saying, everyone has got to die some day. Dying is one thing but the misery is another.
Question, does anyone know a smoker who got sick and said, well, I am sick from tobacco now and its my own fault. I am not going to worry about treatment and will just go die now since I am going to die anyway and I don’t want to bother my family with this. I have seen a couple of dozen smokers now get one illness or another and everyone fought/fights like hell to stay alive. It is funny how someones attitude changes once they are told they will die within a few months unless get treatment. So, how many people know smokers who got sick and refused treatment out of the principal that they did it to themselves and they are going to die anyway? Anyone know someone like that?

Posted by Slammy | Report as abusive

WHAT YOU WON’T HEAR THEM SAY

They say their product is legal – but you’ll never hear them say it’s safe.

They say they have a right to smoke – you’ll never hear them say that we have a right to breathe.

They say we’re taking away their freedom – you’ll never hear them say we’re limiting their addiction.

They say there is no proof of harm – you’ll never hear them say they know people who died from use.

They point their finger to the obese who harm themselves, but no one ever died from secondhand food.

This issue is always about them as individuals – you’ll never hear them speak out for anyone else.

They say “make a section to smoke” in places people gather to eat and drink – you’ll never hear them say they’ll wait or leave to limit everyone else’s exposure to the poisons in their secondhand smoke.

They say they pay taxes on every $5 pack of cigarettes they buy – you’ll never hear them apologize for the $7 we will be taxed to pay for their future healthcare costs, on every pack they buy.

They say smoking bans lose customers and profits for restaurants and bars – you’ll never hear them say cities adopting smokefree policies have never rescinded them because studies have shown that businesses gain more customers and have seen increases in their profits.

They say they won’t go to bars and restaurants that ban smoking inside and/or on outdoor patios – you’ll never hear them say that the federal tax increase of $1 per pack; a 90* cents per pack price hike by cigarette manufacturers; and a looming state tax, is making their addiction too expensive for them to go out – to eat or drink anyway.

They say they are responsible smokers – you’ll never hear them say lit cigarettes and irresponsible smoking is the number one cause of apartment and house fires; and known to be a major cause of hillside and forest fires in dry and windy conditions.

They say smoking gives them a sense of freedom and independence – it is anything but – smokers should not feel free to light-up around those who don’t smoke and their independence is more like dependence and slavery to nicotine, the drug of their addiction and irritability.

Some say they feel more comfortable smoking in social situations – fact is, nobody wants to get secondhand smoke on their clothes, in their hair, or on their skin, so they stay away from the smoker.

They reason that smoking has never hurt them – that’s because decreased oxygen levels to their brains are due to the increased carbon monoxide levels in their lungs.

And lastly, Smoking is just bad – for ALL of us – because it leads to numerous health problems for the smoker like heart attack & stroke, cancer, lung disease and death; but that’s not all, they also take a few of us with them, as well. For every 20 people that die from smoking – 3 non-smokers also die because they were forced to breathe in secondhand smoke.

All of this can change and we have the power to do that – with our voice, with our conscience, and with our vote.

After all is said and done, the fact is, we were all born non-smokers and that is our natural state of being.

Written and presented by Steven Gallegos, March 7, 2009

*Cigarette manufacturers announced a 9 cent rise per pack in February 2009 and another 81 cent increase after SCHIP was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.

Posted by StevenG726 | Report as abusive

OK. Second hand smoke is NOT good for you. That is just the truth. But that includes all second hand smoke. Yes all smoke, not just cigarettes. Campfires and woodburning fireplaces included. Now it is currently fashionable to hate cigarette smoke. But when that threat has been eliminated where will the hate turn?

Cigarette smoke produces much more second hand smoke than the other sources, make no mistake. Most of us do not go camping and most do not use wood burning fireplaces anymore. We stay indoors and have gas or electric furnaces.

Once the people angry about second hand smoke have nothing to complain about you will see the anger shift. It may very well find it’s place at Scout Camp or the fire you light at home to keep warm on a cold winter night. Both produce carcinogens that are released into the atmosphere. And there will be people that continue to die as a result.

Not as many people will die from these as die from second hand cigarette smoke. But isn’t one preventable death one too many?

Keep up the good work towards a world where no one dies from preventable causes. I imagine that world will not have much left in it since just aboput everything we do has danger inherent in it.

Posted by dantoledo1 | Report as abusive

We all know that smoking is bad for you, but there is something insidious about using regulations and laws to prevent the use of this legal product. Frankel talks about how they are trying to force companies to put large, disgusting messages on cigarette packs the way they do in Canada. That does injury to freedom of speech, but Frankel doesn’t care. If smoking is that bad, why not make them illegal? What they ought to do is try and develop tobacco that isn’t going to kill you.

Posted by Calfri | Report as abusive

Correction: Hamburg, not Frankel.

Why are the crusaders so worried about smoking but don’t care at all about radon? Answer: doing something about radon doesn’t show you’re superior to anyone, it just helps people be healthier.

Posted by Calfri | Report as abusive

The government could subsidize testing kits for radon in homes, but it won’t even bother with that simple measure. Shows that they don’t really care about the public health, but they’re obssessed with showing the world how much better they are than the lowly cigarette smoker.

Posted by Calfri | Report as abusive

The recently released “Monitoring the Future” report indicates that:
The decrease in tobacco use in young adults use has been minimal.
The rate has leveled off just like the >18 adult rate.
Tobacco use is being used to self-medicate stress related disorders.
And these divisive, failing programs just add more stress to a population that has had more than their share.

But the esier to obtain (but still illegal) Marijuana rate has just taken over as the drug of choice for high schoolers. After all extensive use in high school didn’t hurt your boss. Should we expect to find a health educational component extolling the virtues of “roof hits”?

The Tobacco Control effort needs a cessation program. I hear cold turkey is best.

Posted by JayR1945 | Report as abusive

This is a reply to Slammy: Unfortunately, I did know a friend who was a very heavy smoker and developed lung cancer due to his smoking several packs per day. He was in his mid to late 20′s when he was diagnosed with the dreadful disease. I remember visiting him in the hospital and him telling me that the doctors said the cancer had gone to far and that there was not much hope of saving his life. His attitude was since there was nothing he could do at that point he was going to continue smoking his cigarettes (this was before hospitals became smokefree) which he did and passed away a very short time after. My friend was a rebel rouser type of guy who drank heavy, liked fast cars and smoked cigarettes. To this day, I still can’t get over him and his attitude.

Posted by smokefree | Report as abusive