Harvard: Memorial Conference to Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Legacy on FDA and Public Health Tobacco Control


by Emilia Dunham

Program Associate

I am pleased to be at the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act: Regulatory Science and the Tobacco Industry at Harvard School of Public Health. With recent FDA and public health advances, and convening of tobacco control professionals from across the country, this could be historic time for tobacco control.

Tobacco use has been on a steady decline of about 2% each year since the early 1990s. While this has shown large decrease over a generation, the reduction is still very gradual and is starting to plateau. However new FDA regulation and authority with Affordable Care Act provisions, we hope to see a drop in smoking prevalence.

This decline has occurred, as a result of the Kennedy legacy with decades of restrictive national tobacco laws and tobacco control advocacy. Chief Counsel for Policy for Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jeffrey Teitz commented on the passion of Sen. Kennedy on extinguishing the threat of tobacco. Part of the reason for this passion was his priorities to protect children and provide for the health of the American people, which are passions shared by many of us which propel us into this advocacy. Hence it’s clear that this is a memorial conference to the late Senator.

A recent mechanism, and Ted Kennedy’s last tremendous success, was the passage of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2009 as you likely know. This law gave FDA the regulatory and legal tools to fight tobacco for public health. This law breaks down into three main restrictions against the tobacco industry.

Combating tobacco industry efforts to encourage children to smoke and deceiving.

When too much oppositional media attention exposes a marketing trend, the tobacco industry shifts to another campaign. Now the FDA has the authority to combat this, ahead of the trend, for prevention rather than reacting after each campaign.

Regulate manufacturing of tobacco

Cigarettes are more than tobacco wrapped in paper as they contain 1000s of chemicals to make their products more addictive (and also lethal), but FDA will require an ingredient list and set performance standards of product composition.

Preventing claims that certain projects are healthier

FDA requires new tobacco products with “safer” claims to submit their products to review. Most claims of “low tar” and “mild” were disproved, so it’s unlikely new products will meet FDA standards and thus be unable to advertise in this way. The tobacco industry will do what it can to drain resources of FDA but submitted numerous claims. Big Tobacco has already started this strategy and given their decades of exhausting plaintiff claims with endless appeals and resources invested in defensive litigation.

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