AARC is a member of the Tobacco Partners Coalition (Tobacco Partners) spearheaded by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society/Cancer Network. More than 50 organizations whose goal is to protect public health and reduce the incidence of smoking in the US come together quarterly to discuss federal legislative and regulatory issues of common interest. The Partners tackle a number of issues on a variety of smoking-related topics that have an overall impact in protecting children, youth and adults from the consequences of tobacco use. Some of the examples are discussed below.
The Tobacco Partners, including AARC, strongly supported the Food and Drug Administration’s rule that “deemed” the agency to have regulatory authority and oversight over all tobacco products which, in addition to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, includes e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), cigars, pipes and hookahs. Key provisions to restrict youth access include:
- Not allowing products to be sold to persons under the age of 18 years (both in person and online)
- Requiring age verification by photo ID
- Not allowing the selling of covered tobacco products in vending machines (unless in an adult-only facility)
- Not allowing the distribution of free samples
For several years, the tobacco industry has tried to undermine FDA’s authority to regulate all tobacco products by attaching policy “riders” to House and Senate Appropriations bills. One rider would exclude “large and premium” cigars which public health experts believe creates a loophole permitting the manufacture of inexpensive, machine-made, flavored cigars of special appeal to youth. The second rider would change the “grandfather” date (i.e., February 15, 2007) to exempt many e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products now on the market from an important FDA review requirement to determine the risk to public health. AARC joined over 50 Partners in strongly opposing the riders and to date they have not been included in the 2018 appropriations bills.
In July 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new comprehensive plan to regulate tobacco and nicotine that will serve as a multi-year roadmap to better protect kids and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death. A key piece of FDA’s approach is to begin a public dialogue about lowering nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes to non-addictive levels through the development of product standards. Additionally, FDA intends to issue regulations seeking input on the potential benefits and possible adverse effects of lowering nicotine in cigarettes. FDA also plans to seek public input on the role that flavors (including menthol) in tobacco products play in attracting youth and may help smokers switch to potentially less harmful forms of nicotine delivery as well as seeking input on patterns of use and public health impacts from premium cigars. Last, FDA will launch a public education campaign by expanding its “The Real Cost” campaign aimed at discouraging the use of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) by including messaging to teens about the dangers of using these products. The AARC is particularly concerned that e-cigarettes and ENDS, which contain nicotine as well as other chemicals and carcinogens, have been linked to serious respiratory effects such as occupational asthma and bronchiolitis and respiratory irritants. As a member of the Tobacco Partners, AARC will join other stakeholders in submitting public comments spearheaded by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids as future proposed rules on these subjects become available.
Addressing issues proposed by the FDA is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tobacco advocacy and AARC’s role as a member of the Partners coalition. For example, we’ve advocated for restricting smokeless tobacco at Major League Baseball venues, prohibiting smoking in public housing, supporting a bill in Congress that would make facilities of the Veteran Health Administration smoke-free, and campaigned against the Disney Company to end its relationship with a media company that helped Phillip Morris International market its products to young people around the world.
The AARC is an advocate for both tobacco cessation and tobacco prevention programs. As a responsibility to the public, we have taken a strong position against cigarette smoking and the use of tobacco in any form, including the inhalation of any toxic substance and will continue to do so in the future.