WASHINGTON, DC – With one in every five Ohio deaths caused by tobacco use, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference call today 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 “electronic cigarettes” 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 more than 400,000 customers it loses each year to tobacco-related death.
“Our efforts to stop the number one preventable cause of death in the world are again being undermined by Big Tobacco,” Brown said. “In order to replace the more than 400,000 customers it loses each year to tobacco related deaths, Big Tobacco has fought to weaken anti-tobacco laws and market new products to children. The Administration should do the right thing for the health of the country by exercising its full power to put a stop to Big Tobacco’s crashing through loopholes in trade policy and existing FDA regulations. America must be a leader in global and domestic public health efforts and stop the insidious creep of addiction, lung cancer, coronary disease, and respiratory harm caused by tobacco and nicotine.”
“We’re very grateful to Senator Brown for his leadership in the fight against tobacco use, including his work to protect tobacco control measures under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement,” Liss said. “The tobacco industry is using abusive trade lawsuits to challenge tobacco control laws around the globe, and we need to ensure these life-saving policies are protected. The jump in youth e-cigarette use comes as marketing for e-cigarettes has skyrocketed and e-cigarette companies are increasingly using the same tactics long used to market regular cigarettes to kids. This explosion of e-cigarette marketing threatens to undo decades of efforts to deglamorize smoking to kids. It’s time for the FDA and the states to take action to protect our kids.”
Big Tobacco at Home
Today, Brown called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and prohibit their sale and marketing to children. E-cigs use addictive nicotine but are not yet subject to federal laws that apply to traditional cigarettes like prohibiting their sale to minors, banning ads on the television and radio, and disallowing the use of fruit flavors that appeal to kids. In fact, e-cig makers have utilized each of these tactics as well as the use of celebrity sponsors to glamorize their products. As a result, e-cig use has doubled among middle and high school children in just the last year according to a report this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC study also suggests that e-cigs are a gateway to traditional smoking, citing that more than 76 percent of children who used e-cigs also smoked conventional cigarettes within 30 days.
In April, Brown and four other U.S. Senators called e-cigs a possible pathway to traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products. They urged the FDA to issue “deeming regulations” asserting regulatory authority over tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes, and to restrict the sale, distribution and marketing of e-cigarettes and other nicotine products to children and young adults.
Brown, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and six of their congressional colleagues will send a bipartisan letter this week to the presidents of several e-cig makers, including NJOY, the world’s largest maker of electronic cigarettes, to call for greater transparency and accountability of its sales and marketing practices, especially as they apply to minors.
Today, Brown and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) will meet with FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg to discuss, among other topics, the effort to include e-cigs in the agency’s authority over all kinds of tobacco products, which was granted in 2009 through the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
Big Tobacco Abroad
As the Obama Administration continues to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact with 11 others countries, Brown called on the Administration to reconsider a provision that would protect American tobacco-control efforts from trade challenges and lawsuits. The Administration initially supported a “safe harbor” provision that would have significantly limited efforts by Big Tobacco companies to mount trade challenges to efforts that promote public health. Last month, however, it abruptly changed course.
In advance of TPP talks which took place earlier this month, Brown wrote a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), urging for the safe harbor provision to be reconsidered before TPP is finalized.
The TPP is a proposed trade agreement that currently includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Congress has the constitutional authority to set the terms of trade and commerce with foreign nations. The Administration is conducting the TPP talks using authority which officially lapsed in 2007, suggesting it will seek renewed Trade Promotion Authority, known as “Fast Track,” to conclude TPP negotiations, as well as other trade initiatives.
The Effect of Big Tobacco on Ohio
According to the Ohio Department of Public Health:
- One in every five Ohio deaths is caused by tobacco use
- Ohio ranks sixth in adult smoking rates
- 16,900 children under the age of 18 start smoking each year in Ohio
Approximately 386,000 individuals 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
- Ohio residents pay what amounts to a “tobacco tax” of about $602 per household for smoking-related government expenditures annually
Brown has tirelessly worked to reduce the negative effects of tobacco use for Ohioans, including pressing 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. Brown has also consistently urged the FDA to do its part to produce strong and timely regulations on tobacco products.