Government could soon have power to ban nicotine

April 16, 2008 at 2:18 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Landmark legislation making its way to the House floor would shift responsibility of regulating tobacco products to the Food and Drug Administration, which will likely lead to bigger warning labels and the removal of dangerous additives in cigarettes.

The bill, called the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act," would provide a significant blow to Big Tobacco's ability to market their product, and would even give Congress the authority to ban nicotine.

The "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act" gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the ability to regulate tobacco products through the FDA. This would allow the secretary to restrict the sale, advertising and promotion of tobacco products.

This would be accomplished by limiting sales or distribution to an authorized practitioner licensed to prescribe medical products, prohibiting the sales in face-to-face transactions by a specific category of retail outlets or establishing a minimum age greater than 18 years of age for product purchases.

The act would also grant the secretary the authority to prohibit cigarettes from containing any artificial or natural color, or an herb or spice such as strawberry, cinnamon or coffee. It requires the secretary to establish product standards to protect the public health, but only gives Congress the authority to ban any tobacco products or reduce the nicotine level to 0.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, who supports the legislation, said that it would help improve the health of people across the state.

"Preventing our young people from starting a deadly, lifelong tobacco addiction is key to improving the overall health of Louisianians,"  Melancon said. "While the health of our children must always come first, I also felt it was important that this bill be responsive to the concerns of small businesses.  I am pleased the Committee has passed a bill that will significantly reduce the number of American children who will try their first cigarette."

The bill was created on the heels of  a report by a coalition of public health organizations that said tobacco manufacturers take advantage of the lack of government regulation to design and market products that recruit young smokers, sustain addiction to nicotine and discourage current users from quitting.

The report, which was issued by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Health Association, the American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids, detailed several key trends.

Among these:
- The proliferation of flavored products, introduced in an array of candy, fruit and alcohol flavors. Flavorings mask the harshness of the products and make them appealing to new users.

- The increased marketing of tobacco products to women, girls and other populations.

- A growing list of products have been marketed with unproven and misleading claims that they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

"Tobacco products kill over 438,000 Americans each year and this legislation will finally provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with the authority it needs to regulate the production and marketing of tobacco products, which have been historically exempt from the most basic oversight," Bernadette Toomey, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said. "Every day more than 1,100 children become regular, daily smokers and tobacco companies spend billions of dollars to create products like candy-flavored cigarettes in attempt to lure a new generation of tobacco consumers."

For those interested in quitting, a comprehensive online source has been launched specifically for Louisiana residents. The site, is a joint initiative of The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL) and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Tobacco Control Program (TCP).

"No two tobacco users are alike, and in Louisiana, no one has to go it alone," says Mary Kuntor, Cessation Services Manager for The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living.  "Some tobacco users choose to simply quit cold turkey, others prefer working with an individual quit coach by phone, and then there are some who thrive within the dynamics of group counseling.  Now with just a few clicks, Louisiana tobacco users who are ready to quit can find many free cessation programs, tools and resources to meet their individual quit needs."

The Quit With Us, Louisiana Web site empowers tobacco users with important information and tips for quitting, and offers links to online resources and free statewide cessation programs -- all accessible from a single location, including:

- The Louisiana Tobacco Quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which is free and confidential advice and support by telephone for Louisiana residents, ages 13 and older, who are interested in or ready to quit smoking.  Certified quit counseling is available in English, Spanish and other languages, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

- Group Cessation Counseling, which are counseling classes offered through the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking Clinics and the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.

- The Tobacco Control Initiative (TCI) , which offers tobacco cessation resources and services within public hospitals throughout Louisiana. Cessation resources and services provided by TCI combine behavioral counseling, social support, and pharmacotherapy to assist patients in their efforts to discontinue tobacco use.

In addition to tools aimed at tobacco users, features a special section for healthcare providers.  The section outlines programs and resources that physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers can employ to assist patients, including new and expectant mothers, to quit smoking through one-on-one counseling during regularly scheduled appointments or through cessation program referrals.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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