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ADA, others ask Congress to reject tobacco policy riders, keep CDC funding

April 11, 2017

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — As Congress finalizes appropriations for fiscal year 2017, the ADA and more than 50 organizations led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are asking Congress to reject two policy riders that would weaken the Food and Drug Administration's authority to oversee tobacco products and urging legislators to oppose proposed cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office on Smoking and Health.

In 2016, the FDA issued a final rule on tobacco products, expanding the agency's authority to regulate all tobacco — including e-cigarettes, hookah and cigars. The rule also made it illegal for retailers to sell tobacco products to minors and enabled the agency enforce the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

One of the House policy riders seeks to "completely exclude what the industry terms 'large and premium cigars' " from FDA oversight.

In an April 11 letter, the coalition urged Appropriations members to oppose this provision, citing FDA findings that all cigars "pose serious negative health risks" and "are potentially addictive." It also noted that "tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States" and is responsible for an estimated $170 billion in health care costs.

"We are also concerned that the rider defines 'large and premium cigars' so broadly that it invites tobacco companies to modify their products to qualify for this exemption — a loophole that tobacco companies will surely exploit to exempt some cheap, machine-made, flavored cigars that appeal to youth."

The second House policy rider would change the so-called "grandfather date" in order to exempt many e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products now on the market from an important FDA product review requirement. Current law requires manufacturers to submit products introduced to market after Feb. 15, 2007, for scientific review. The proposed rider removes that requirement.

"Changing this date would significantly weaken FDA's ability to take prompt action to protect children from thousands of fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes and cigars, including products in flavors such as cotton candy, gummy bear and fruit punch that clearly appeal to kids," the coalition wrote.

The coalition is also urging appropriators not to cut funding for the CDC Office on Smoking and Health, noting the office plays a critical role in preventing young people from using tobacco products. The proposed $110 million funding cut would "lead to more young people using tobacco products, fewer adult tobacco users quitting and higher future health care costs for treating tobacco-caused disease."

They also point out that OSH funds the "highly successful" national media campaign, Tips from Former Smokers, which has motivated about five million smokers to make an attempt to quit.

"The campaign is highly cost-effective with a cost of just $393 per year of life saved, far below the $50,000 cost-effectiveness standard commonly applied to public health programs," the coalition, noting the House's proposed funding cut would make it "virtually impossible" for CDC to continue this campaign.

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