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FDA should have authority over tobacco industry

Even though tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, currently no government agency has oversight over the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco products. Tobacco companies are free to add whatever ingredients they want, even if it makes products more attractive to kids, more addictive or even more deadly.

A new report released by leading public health organizations shows the extent to which tobacco manufacturers take advantage of the lack of regulation over their industry to entice new users. The report shows how the tobacco industry attracts children by adding candy flavorings like strawberry and grape to their products. They also know that smoking is unpleasant for new smokers, so they carefully design the product to make it less harsh by adding sugars and chemicals that numb the throat. They even address how the cigarette should be designed so that the novice smoker can light it more easily.

A lifetime of addiction almost always starts in the teenage years: 90 percent of adult smokers began smoking as teens, so any attempt to limit the national epidemic of tobacco addiction must begin with eliminating the marketing and manufacturing of these products to target children.

Congress has an historic opportunity to stop the special protection of Big Tobacco and protect Indiana kids by passing bipartisan legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products and their marketing. While the bill would help protect all Americans, it includes specific provisions to protect our children from this deadly addiction.

The bill's strong restrictions on advertising and marketing of tobacco products to children include provisions to keep tobacco out of their hands, prohibit candy flavorings in products, and require larger more effective warning labels.

Tobacco products take a significant toll on Hoosiers every year, leading to 9,800 deaths annually and costing Indiana more than $2 billion each year in preventable costs. The legislation before Congress will give us additional crucial tools for preventing the disease and death caused by tobacco products.

Sens. Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh and Rep. Brad Ellsworth are co-sponsors of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. They will play a critical role its passage. With their help, Congress can take a major step to protect our children and reduce the terrible toll of tobacco on our community.

I want to thank Sens. Lugar and Bayh and Rep. Ellsworth for co-sponsoring this life-saving legislation and urge them to do all they can to ensure its safe passage in the Congress this year.

Nancy D. Turner, President/CEO, American Lung Association of Indiana
April 09, 2008

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