The federal government regulates everything from breakfast cereal and hair dye to horse feed and breast implants. The list of items regulated by our government includes just about every consumable product in America from prescription drugs to vegetables.
But there’s one item strangely absent from the list, the one that causes more preventable deaths than any other product. A powerful and well-funded lobby has managed to keep tobacco off the list of federally regulated products for more than 40 years after the first surgeon general’s report linked smoking to cancer. Even today, a simple list of ingredients is not required for tobacco products.
Tobacco companies have taken advantage of this lack of oversight and have shamelessly marketed to underaged recruits through cartoon advertising, nicotine and ingredient manipulation, fruity flavors, free giveaways at rock concerts, and ads in publications with high teen readership.
In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration assumed the authority to regulate tobacco as a consumable product and published rules regarding this regulation. Some basic common-sense approaches were proposed in those rules, including ways to prohibit the sale and marketing of tobacco to children. However, the Supreme Court ruled that only Congress could give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco.
Twelve years later, we continue to wait for Congress to take action regarding this lone unregulated product. We submit to you that this is twelve years too long.
Currently being considered by Congress, the Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act, S. 625 and H.R. 1108, would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products the way drugs, devices, and foods are currently regulated. The American Cancer Society encourages all members of Congress to stand up and be counted on this issue. We cannot afford another 12 years of inaction.
Clanton is chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, High Plains Division, which includes Oklahoma. He is former deputy director for the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.
Source: Mark Clanton, M.D., The Oklahoman