WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued the following statement in response to the start of the committee’s mark-up of the “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act”:
“Fifteen years ago, I sat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and listened as seven tobacco company CEOs raised their right hands to defend their practices and swear, under oath, that cigarettes and nicotine were not addictive.
“I listened as the President of Phillip Morris stated, ‘I believe nicotine is not addictive.’ I listened as the Chairman and CEO of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company stated, ‘Cigarettes and nicotine clearly do not meet the classic definition of addiction.’
“I listened as the President of U.S. Tobacco, the Chairman and CEO of Liggett Group, and the Chairman and CEO of Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company all individually stated, ‘I believe that nicotine is not addictive.’ And I listened as the President and CEO of American Tobacco Company stated, ‘And I, too, believe that nicotine is not addictive.’
“It dawned on me then that those reassurances were no more than a marketing strategy: the goal being to replace the 400,000 customers that tobacco companies lose each year due to tobacco-related illnesses and deaths.
“And what better potential customers to target than children, who are all too often unaware of the harmful and addictive nature of tobacco when they smoke their first cigarette or ingest their first smokeless tobacco product.
“All across the country, our children are the targets of suggestive and misleading tobacco advertisements. In 2007, R.J. Reynolds introduced a line of Camel brand cigarettes called “Camel No. 9’s” – clearly modeled after the popular perfume “Chanel No. 9.” The cigarette pack is laced in hot pink and teal, and includes the slogan “light and luscious.”
“R. J. Reynolds reportedly spent between $25 and $40 million to launch that product, including a 24-city promotional tour and advertisements that ran in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour – magazines which are known to be popular with girls and young women. It strains the imagination that this product is not aimed at anyone other than 15, 16, and 17-year-old girls. “It further strains the imagination that the newest tobacco products being marketed by R.J. Reynolds – Camel Orbs, Sticks, and Strips – are not aimed at children and teens.
“Currently, Camel Orbs are sold in 3 cities nationwide – including Columbus, Ohio. Camel Strips and Sticks are expected in stores in the next month or so. There is no doubt that these products are aimed squarely at kids. Camel Orbs look like Pez candies – complete with a little camel on each pellet.
“Smokeless tobacco products are proving to be popular with children. In Columbus, school custodians have already reported finding Orb packages in trash cans.
“This is all the more distressing considering that, in Ohio, 20 percent – or 134,000 – high school students smoke and more than 18,000 kids under the age of 18 become new smokers each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC) estimates that 293,000 Ohio kids who are under the age of 18 will die prematurely as a result of smoking.
“The introduction of these dissolvable tobacco products – which allow children to consume tobacco in settings where they are unable to smoke, like classrooms or movie theaters – are likely to significantly inflate these numbers.
“Most children are not aware of the serious health consequences when they try their first cigarette or their first dissolvable tobacco product – but we are. Congress has a responsibility to ensure that children are not the victims of suggestive – let’s call it ‘addictive’ – marketing by tobacco companies. It has an equal responsibility to ensure that citizens are protected from dangerous chemicals and are aware of all the risks associated with smoking.
“For these reasons, it is imperative that we provide the Food and Drug Administration (or FDA) with the authority to regulate tobacco products – both to protect our children and to advance the health and well-being of our nation.
“In my home state of Ohio, health care costs directly caused by smoking top $4.37 billion – $1.4 billion of which are covered by our state Medicaid program – a program which is already massively overburdened. Every year smoking costs the nation more than $96 billion in health care bills and kills more than 400,000 Americans.
“This is a drain on our health care system and a drain on our local communities. I join with 50 members of the Senate, 298 members of the House, and every major medical and public health group in fully supporting this legislation.
“Congress has debated the issue of FDA authority over tobacco for nearly a decade. It is time stop talking and start acting in the best interests of our children and our nation.”