Later On

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Stronger tobacco regulation?

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From today’s WaPo:

State and local governments should ban smoking in malls, restaurants and virtually all other public indoor settings and the Food and Drug Administration should regulate the marketing, packaging and sale of tobacco products, the influential Institute of Medicine said in a report today on how to further cut tobacco use.

The study released also calls for raising federal taxes on cigarettes and developing a federal plan to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes so that they are no longer addictive. The Institute is a branch of the National Academies, a scientific organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific and technical issues.

“Why has there not been greater progress in addressing the tobacco problem?” wrote Richard J. Bonnie, a University of Virginia law professor and the chairman of the panel of experts that produced the report. “Although many social, economic and political factors have played a role, perhaps the most important one is that the tobacco industry obscured the addictive properties and health risks of smoking, impeded and delayed many tobacco control interventions and has so far successfully thwarted meaningful federal regulatory measures.”

The solution is to strengthen existing anti-smoking measures and to give the government new regulatory powers over the industry with the goal of “reducing tobacco use so substantially that it no longer has a significant impact on public health,” Bonnie wrote.

Smoking in the U.S. has declined by nearly 60 percent since the U.S. Surgeon General warned of the dire health consequences of smoking in a seminal report in 1964, the year before Congress required cigarette packages to carry a health warning. Even so, about 21 percent of all adults — 44 million people — still smoke, according to the IOM report.

Tobacco use causes 440,000 deaths every year, and second hand smoke contributes to another 50,000 deaths. Smoking-related health costs total $89 billion a year, the report said.

“Tobacco is the only legal product for which the government’s stated goal is to suppress use altogether rather than to promote safe or responsible use,” the report noted.

The panel recommended several measures to drive down tobacco use even more, including:

– Banning online sales of tobacco products.

– Limiting tobacco advertising and displays to black-and-white, text-only formats, and prohibiting tobacco companies from using terms such as “mild” and “light” to describe their products.

– Requiring picture warnings on cigarettes, as Canada does.

– Prohibiting tobacco companies from targeting children in any way.

– Restricting the number of retail outlets that can sell tobacco, requiring that they obtain a license to do so, and mandating that they display health warnings and stock smoking cessation aids.

The IOM report is sure to bolster the case of a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress who have introduced legislation that would grant the FDA authority over the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products, including the power to restrict advertising, require stronger warning labels, and regulate the amount of nicotine and other ingredients. The agency would not be able to ban tobacco, however,

The measure would also give the FDA power to end vending-machine and self-service sales of tobacco, prohibit tobacco advertising near schools and playgrounds, ban fruit- or candy-flavored cigarettes and stop cigarette makers from using claims such as “light” or “low-tar” unless they are scientifically proven.

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 1:56 pm

Posted in Government, Health, Medical

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