Federal Government

Federal Overview: Poor Results in 2013

With 3 Ds and a C, the federal government’s record on tobacco control in 2013 might best be described as poor. The federal government made progress in helping smokers quit here in the U.S., but internationally, the U.S government succumbed to industry-backed pressure by weakening its position on tobacco control in the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership negotiations.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden, MD has aptly described tobacco as a “winnable battle.” However, for the battle to be won, the Obama Administration must overcome its recent backtracking and delays and renew its commitment to pursue aggressive measures to reduce tobacco use.

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The White House Must Give FDA the Green Light for Meaningful Oversight of All Tobacco Products

The proposed regulation to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Center for Tobacco Products authority over all tobacco products, including cigars, little cigars, hookah, pipe tobacco, some dissolvable products and e-cigarettes, has yet to be released. As a result, these products remain entirely without federal oversight. The proposed regulation is now under review at the White House Office of Management.

  • In July, FDA issued its long-awaited report that found menthol in cigarettes is more likely to lead to new users, primarily youth, starting to smoke as well as them becoming regular users. The report also found that menthol in cigarettes leads to increased smoking dependence; and makes it harder for existing smokers, especially African Americans, to quit. The American Lung Association immediately called on FDA to begin regulatory action to prohibit menthol cigarettes and with partners, submitted comments in November urging FDA to move forward quickly.
  • New York City, the Lung Association and the public health community, filed a citizen petition that urges FDA to move forward with an anti-smuggling effort known as track and trace which would track tobacco products from the factories through distributors to retail outlets.
  • In June, 140 tobacco industry substantial equivalence applications were either rejected by FDA or withdrawn, keeping new products off the market because it found the products’ introduction would not improve public health.
“The wild, wild west” How FDA Center for Tobacco Products director Mitch Zeller describes the U.S. e-cigarette marketplace.
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Congress Fails to Advance President’s Tobacco Tax Proposal

In his Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal, President Obama called for a 94 cent cigarette tax increase and a proportionate increase on other tobacco products, which would bring the federal cigarette tax up to $1.95 per pack, as a way to pay for early childhood education initiatives. In 2013, Congress failed to act on the President’s proposal.

  • The public health and early childhood education communities issued a report “Raising Smart, Healthy Kids in Every State” in September, calling on Congress to pass the proposal by the President that would be a win-win for smart and healthy kids in the U.S. 
  • The American Lung Association strongly supports Senator Richard Durbin’s (D-IL) proposal for federal tobacco tax parity. Tax parity – taxing other tobacco products at a rate equivalent to cigarettes – would result in more smokers quitting instead of switching to cheaper tobacco products and would eliminate tobacco industry incentives to manipulate their products.
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Tips Campaigns Prompt Smokers to Quit but Still No Defined Quit Smoking Benefit to Assist Them

  • CDC launched the second round of its highly successful Tips from Former Smokers media campaign in the spring of 2013. A number of the featured personal stories highlighted the devastating lung health consequences that are the tragic result of tobacco use. A study was published in The Lancet in September that found over 100,000 Americans quit smoking as a result of the initial Tips campaign ads that aired in 2012. The study finds another 1.5 million Americans made quit attempts. 
  • However, because the Administration again failed to issue guidance to health insurance companies on defining a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit, millions of Americans do not have access to all of the tools proven to successfully help smokers quit.
  • In February 2013, the Department of Defense released its final rule confirming that military personnel and their families enrolled in TRICARE will have access to a comprehensive quit smoking benefit.
  • For the last three years, federal workers have had access to the gold-standard of quit smoking benefits. Unfortunately, in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget, the President proposed to weaken this benefit by charging federal employees who use tobacco more for their health insurance (called a “tobacco surcharge”). No evidence exists that such increased premiums are successful in helping smokers quit.
  • HHS issued regulations implementing provisions in the Affordable Care Act that increases the amount of tobacco surcharges allowed in certain health insurance plans. The regulations require small employer plans to give tobacco users the option of participating in a quit smoking program to avoid the extra charges.
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Obama Administration’s International Tobacco Control Record Continues to Lag 

  • May 2013 marked the 9th anniversary of the U.S. signing but failing to ratify the global tobacco control treaty known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Almost 180 different nations have ratified the treaty, putting 88 percent of the world’s population under its protections.
  • The Administration abandoned its plan to protect millions of people around the world when it failed to put forward its original proposal that would have made it more difficult for tobacco companies to use international trade agreements to their advantage to challenge domestic tobacco control measures.
“Why is Obama Caving on Tobacco” Michael Bloomberg in a New York Times op-ed, August 22, 2013
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Electronic Cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2012.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. September 6, 2013; 62(35):729-30. King BA, Alam S, Promoff G, Arrazola R, Dube SR. “Awareness and Ever Use of Electronic Cigarettes Among U.S. Adults, 2010–2011.” Nicotine & Tobacco Research. February 2013; 15:1623-7.
  2. Framework Convention Alliance. www.fctc.org. Accessed on September 13, 2013.

American Lung Association Remembers Lung Health Champion Senator Frank Lautenberg

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) passed away in June.  His many accomplishments in protecting public health included passage of the Smokefree Skies Act, protecting everyone from the dangers of secondhand smoke while flying.  Senator Lautenberg was honored with the American Lung Association’s lung health champion award in 2013.

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The American Lung Association’s annual "State of Tobacco Control" report was released nationwide on Wednesday, January 22, 2014.

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Surgeon General’s Report

Despite the great progress of the past, in the last few years, tobacco control efforts have slowed and in some areas, even stalled.

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