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'No tobacco products should be exempted from oversight'

ADA, public health groups oppose Senate cigar bill

February 27, 2012

By Craig Palmer, ADA News staff

Washington—The Association urged the U.S. Senate to reject legislation that would exempt “traditional large and premium cigars” from Food and Drug Administration regulation.

In separate communications Feb. 23, ADA officials urged the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to table or vote against S. 1461, and the Association joined dental, other health, religious and social organizations expressing “our strong opposition” to the bill in a letter to the full Senate.

The 2009 ADA-supported Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act authorizes FDA regulation of the manufacture, marketing and distribution of tobacco products. The proposed S. 1461, the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2012, would prohibit the FDA from promulgating any regulations involving certain types of cigars.

“There is a strong association between cigar smoking and mortality from oral (mouth) and pharyngeal (throat) cancers,” the Association told the HELP Committee bipartisan leadership in a letter signed by Dr. William R. Calnon, president, and Dr. Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, executive director. “About 8 out of 10 people with mouth and throat cancers use tobacco. Smokers are many times more likely than non-smokers to develop these cancers and the risk increases with the amount smoked and the duration of the habit. On average, 40 percent of those with the disease will not survive more than five years after being diagnosed.

“Taxpayer dollars would be better spent discouraging the use of cancer-causing products, including traditional large and premium cigars,” the Association said. “It is vital that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration be allowed to retain its strong, effective authority to regulate these products.”

The 40-organization coalition told the full Senate, “We believe the Food and Drug Administration should retain the authority to regulate all tobacco products, including cigars. Products containing tobacco cause disease and no tobacco products should be exempted from oversight by the agency.”

“We are particularly concerned about the wide range of products that may claim to be exempted from any regulation under the bill, including Swisher Sweets Sweet Chocolate Blunts, Phillies Sugarillos Cigarillos (described on the box as 'when sweet isn’t sweet enough!’), White Owl grape Blunts Xtra and Optimo peach Blunts,” the coalition said. “These products come in flavors and are among the most popular with youth.”

Other professional organizations signing the coalition letter include the Academy of General Dentistry, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, American Academy of Oral Medicine, American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Periodontology, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and Oral Health America.