In August, President Clinton announced broad measures designed to drastically decrease teenage smoking. The President directed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate cigarettes and declare nicotine an addictive drug. The proposed FDA regulations govern the sale, marketing, and distribution of nicotine-containing cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to children and adolescents in order to address the serious public health problems caused by tobacco. President Clinton’s intention is to meet the goals established in the government’s “Healthy People 2000” report by cutting teenage tobacco use in half. If this objective is not met within 7 years of the date of publication of the final rule, the FDA will take additional measures to help achieve the reduction in the use of tobacco products by young people. The President does not intend to limit the adult use of tobacco products.
As FDA Commissioner Dr David Kessler described it, smoking is a pediatric disease. Every day, 3000 children take a puff of their first cigarette. As a result, 1000 will die prematurely from heart disease, cancer, emphysema, or other diseases. The average teenage smoker starts at about 14 years of age and then becomes a daily smoker before age 18. Studies have consistently shown that if a teen does not begin to smoke then, it is unlikely that he or she will ever begin to do so later in life.
More than 400 000 people die each year from smoking-related diseases. This amounts to more than the combined death tolls from AIDS, alcohol and illegal drugs, car accidents, murders, and suicides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that for 1993, the healthcare costs associated with tobacco was about $50 billion.
The President and many presidents before him have seen a history of broken promises made by the tobacco industry to voluntarily restrict advertising to young people. Despite these promises, the tobacco industry continued to market to young people and concealed their dangerous facts on nicotine addiction and disease caused by tobacco. Today the tobacco industry is spending more than $6 billion to entice a new generation of American children into trying this deadly addiction. For more than 40 years cigarette manufacturers have escaped regulation. This time President Clinton based his regulations on years of scientific study and evidence established by organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He stated that “We need to act, and we must act now, before another generation of Americans is condemned to fight a difficult and grueling personal battle with an addiction that will cost millions of them their lives.”
• Require the tobacco industry to spend $150 million per year to support an antismoking educational campaign directed at children.
• Prohibit cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales to those under 18 years of age; vendors would be required to check for photo identification as proof of age.
• Prohibit vending machine or mail-order sales as well as the sales of individual cigarettes or packs of 20 or fewer cigarettes.
• Prohibit the sale or giving away of promotional items with brand names or logos to children.
• Permit only black and white text advertising in publications with more than 15% readership under 18 years of age, or more than 2 million young readers.
• Prohibit outdoor advertising within 1000 feet of schools and playgrounds. Permit only black and white text advertising for all other outdoor advertisements and ads at the point of sale.
• Prohibit brand name sponsorship of sporting or entertainment events but permit the use of company names.
The American public supports the measures taken by the President. A recent survey conducted by the Coalition on Smoking OR Health, with the American Medical Association, revealed that 75% of American voters feel that the federal government should play a larger role in reducing tobacco use among children. This included voters from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Voters also believed (an overwhelming 82%) that tobacco companies should be prohibited from using advertising that can be attractive to children.
More than 100 health, religious, and children’s organizations support the proposed regulations. These organizations also sent a letter to Congress asking that all members sign a “Contract for the Protection of America’s Families and Children From Tobacco Use.” The coalition calls on all members of Congress to set aside their political differences and to join the President and the American public in supporting fair and commonsense regulation of tobacco products by the FDA. The FDA is requesting comments regarding the type of additional measures that would be most effective to reduce teen smoking. The comment period for the proposed rule will be open until November 9. A simple message to the FDA in support of federal regulation is all that is needed to counter the aggressive opposition mounted by the tobacco industry.
- Copyright © 1995 by American Heart Association