WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown applauded an announcement by CVS that it would stop selling tobacco products at its 7,600 stores and pharmacies by October 2014; and begin a national campaign to help millions of Americans quit smoking. CVS/Caremark’s decision comes on the heels of a resolution Brown introduced recognizing the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General (SG) report linking smoking tobacco with lung cancer and heart disease. The new SG report offers an even dimmer assessment of the effects of tobacco, linking smoking to many other diseases, such as diabetes, liver cancer, and colorectal cancer. Despite significant progress in efforts to decrease tobacco use, it is still the leading cause of preventable and premature disease, disability, and death in the United States.
“Today’s announcement by CVS is excellent news for the health and well-being of Americans across the country,” Brown said. “Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in the world. But today, we took a step in the right direction towards stopping the insidious creep of addiction, lung cancer, coronary disease, and respiratory harm caused by tobacco and nicotine. I encourage other companies to follow CVS’ lead and take similar actions which would help save lives.”
The 1964 SG report paved the way for a series of important public health initiatives which have helped reduce the prevalence of smoking among American adults from 42 percent in 1965, to 18 percent in 2012. But in spite of this remarkable progress, tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable and premature disease, disability, and death in the United States. Ohio’s rate of smoking, however, has not declined as much as the national average. In 2012, 23.3 percent of Ohioans smoked, a rate 5.4 percent lower than in 1984 when data was first collected. And when funding for tobacco control efforts was funneled to cover other state budget needs in late 2007, the result was an increase in smoking rates between 2008 and 2010. That is why Brown continues to work to reduce the negative effects of tobacco use for Ohioans.
In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the direct authority to regulate cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The law also gave the FDA the ability to oversee all tobacco products, like e-cigs, pending FDA development of “deeming regulations” followed by a review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In a letter, Brown urged President Obama to expedite OMB’s review of “deeming” regulations, which would allow the FDA to fight Big Tobacco’s efforts to target children and addict them to tobacco products. In a separate letter, Brown urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTA) to include e-cig companies in its annual marketing report that outlines how much and where cigarette companies spend their advertising dollars; and investigate makers of e-cigs that make potentially false, misleading, or deceptive advertising claims that their product is therapeutic.
In letters written to the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Brown has expressed his concerns regarding the USTR’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Tobacco Proposal, which does not currently recognize tobacco as a unique consumer product and which may allow tobacco companies to use trade law to subvert domestic tobacco control measures. Finally, Brown has pressed the FDA and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to regulate tobacco products to the full extent of their powers, such as the use of graphic warning labels, finalizing their regulatory powers over tobacco, and ensuring that all tobacco products are properly taxed and controlled.
According to the Ohio Department of Public Health:
- One in every five Ohio deaths is caused by tobacco;
- Ohio ranks sixth in adult smoking rates;
- 16,900 children under the age of 18 start smoking each year in Ohio;
- Approximately 386,000 Ohioans are currently suffering from one or more chronic or acute diseases as the result of cigarette smoking;
- The medical costs associated with tobacco use by Ohioans are approximately $4 billion per year, of which $1.3 billion is covered by the Ohio Medicaid program; and
- Ohio residents pay what amounts to a “tobacco tax” of about $602 per household for smoking-related government expenditures annually.
In September 2013, Brown held a news conference call to urge the Administration to put an end to Big Tobacco’s latest attempts to use trade law to undermine anti-smoking efforts and to sell and market e-cigs to children. Brown was joined on the call by Susan Liss, the Executive Director of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who helped discuss the means Big Tobacco is willing to take to replace the 480,000 customers it loses each year to tobacco-related death.