Leading Health Groups Celebrate Final Effective Date of Tobacco Rule

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Megan Moriarty
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6052

Washington, D.C. – One year after President Obama signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, national health groups joined today to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to vigorously enforce the law’s major rule. Voicing their support for the rule are the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Medical Association. The rule, which was issued by the FDA in March 2010, goes into effect today and seeks to curtail access to and the appeal of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to children and adolescents in the United States.

“Smoking is a killer, and too many of our young people are its victims. Almost all adult smokers start smoking by their teen years. The authority that the FDA now has under this rule will go a long way in reducing tobacco use by children and adolescents,” says Judith S. Palfrey, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The new rule allows the FDA to regulate tobacco products by:

  • Restricting tobacco advertising and promotions, especially to children.
  • Preventing illegal sales of tobacco products to children.
  • Banning candy-flavored cigarettes, which are considered starter products for young, new smokers.
  • Requiring changes in tobacco products, such as the removal of harmful ingredients or the reduction of nicotine levels.
  • Prohibiting health claims about so-called "reduced risk" products that are not scientifically proven or that would discourage current tobacco users from quitting or encourage new users to start.
  • Requiring tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products, changes to their products and research about the health effects of their products.
  • Requiring larger and more informative health warnings on tobacco products.
  • Prohibiting terms such as "light," "mild" and "low-tar," which can mislead consumers into believing that certain cigarettes are safer than others.

“Oftentimes smokers choose “light” or “mild” cigarettes because they think that these cigarettes may be less harmful to their health than regular cigarettes,” says J. Fred Ralston, MD, FACP, president of the American College of Physicians. “The FDA ban on these misleading terms presents physicians a strong opportunity to encourage their patients to quit by advising them that there is no safe cigarette.”

The World Health Organization reports that approximately 15 billion cigarettes are sold daily - or 10 million every minute. Cigarette smoking and secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke are the leading causes of preventable mortality in the United States. It is estimated that more than 3 million U.S. adolescents are cigarette smokers and that more than 2,000 children under the age of 18 start smoking each day. If the present tobacco use patterns persist, an expected 6.4 million children will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness.

“The FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco products represents an unprecedented opportunity to protect the American public, especially children, from the harm caused by these dangerous products,” said Lori Heim, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “An effective strategy against tobacco use requires approaches that prevent people from using it in the first place and measures to assist in quitting. The FDA’s new role in preventing the marketing and illegal sale of tobacco products to minors will bolster family physicians’ efforts to educate our patients, both children and adults, about the dangers of these products and encourage them to lead healthy lifestyles.”

Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke among pregnant women also contribute to low birth-weight babies, preterm delivery, perinatal deaths, and sudden infant death syndrome. Well over 30,000 births per year in the U.S. are affected by one or more of these problems.

“As ob-gyns, we see first-hand the devastating effects that smoking has on women’s health, particularly among pregnant women,” said Richard N. Waldman, MD, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). “The consequences of smoking disproportionately affect the health of women, not only in terms of lung cancer deaths, but also in terms of increased rates of preterm births, low birth weight infants, and infant deaths from SIDS. ACOG deplores the advertising and marketing practices of tobacco companies that target women—especially adolescent girls, those at risk for pregnancy, and women who are educationally disadvantaged—and we encourage the FDA to strictly enforce the new rule that restricts these practices.”

The FDA rule is a significant step forward in the effort to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco. Its implementation represents decades of work by the public health community to increase government regulation of these deadly products.

"For too long tobacco marketing has enticed children and young people to smoke and encouraged adult smokers to continue their addiction. With the new rule in effect, the FDA will be able to take aggressive action to stop these marketing tactics and enforce new restrictions," said American Medical Association President Cecil B. Wilson, MD "The nation's physicians are ready to help smokers quit, as we continue to treat the ravages of smoking-related diseases."

About the American Academy of Family Physicians
Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) represents 115,900 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care. Approximately one in four of all office visits are made to family physicians. That is 228 million office visits each year — nearly 84 million more than the next largest medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care. To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer Web site, www.FamilyDoctor.org(www.FamilyDoctor.org).

About the American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org(www.aap.org)). The AAP Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence is dedicated to eliminating children’s exposure to tobacco and secondhand smoke. For more information about the AAP’s anti – tobacco efforts visit www.aap.org/richmondcenter.

About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians (www.acponline.org(www.acponline.org)) is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 129,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection, and treatment of illness in adults. Follow ACP on Twitter (www.twitter.com/acpinternists(www.twitter.com)) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/acpinternists(www.facebook.com)).

About the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is the nation's leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 53,000 members, ACOG strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women's health care.

About the American Medical Association
The American Medical Association helps doctors help patients by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional, public health and health policy issues. The nation’s largest physician organization plays a leading role in shaping the future of medicine. For more information on the AMA, please visit www.ama-assn.org(www.ama-assn.org).