PARIS--The international cancer community appears to be taking an interest in the ongoing US state and federal efforts at tobacco control. Jennie Cook, national chairman of the board of the American Cancer Society, was invited to speak on that subject at the Eighth International Congress on Anti-Cancer Treatment (ICACT).
"The proposed settlements that state attorneys general and the tobacco industry have agreed to are only a starting point for discussions about a national, comprehensive tobacco control policy," Ms. Cook commented.
Although three bills concerning a national tobacco control policy are currently before the US Congress, the ACS has withheld its support for any of these bills because it feels they all fall short in ensuring that the public health will be protected, she told the international group. She outlined four measures that, according to the ACS, are critical for inclusion in federal tobacco control legislation.
Four Musts for Legislation
1. FDA authority. "The FDA must be allowed unfettered authority to regulate nicotine and other ingredients, as well as authority for labeling, advertising, and promotion of tobacco products," she said. "The FDA should be allowed to develop incentives to help stimulate the production and availability of less hazardous tobacco products."
Whats more, Ms. Cook urged, the tobacco industry should be required to disclose to the FDA all ingredients in tobacco products as well as any documents and research related to the health impact and marketing of tobacco products to children.
2. Performance standards and penalties. The second ACS condition includes enforceable performance standards combined with significant industry penalties. Such measures will hold the tobacco industry accountable for a genuine reduction in tobacco use among minors.
3. Increase in cost of tobacco products. "The price of tobacco products in the United States must be dramatically increased to ensure that children do not begin to smoke," Ms. Cook said, noting that the ACS supports an immediate increase in excise taxes on all tobacco products. [See related article on page 26.]
4. Stronger local laws. The final point on the ACS agenda is that states and localities must be able to adopt stronger tobacco control laws than provided for by federal legislation.
ENACT and IGNITE
In September 1997, the ACS joined forces with 10 other national health organizations to create the ENACT coalition, which stands for "Effective National Action to Control Tobacco." The raison detre of ENACT, which now counts 35 member organizations, is to enact comprehensive, sustainable, well-funded tobacco control legislation.
The ACS has also launched an internal campaign, known as IGNITE, to arm volunteers and staff with the information needed to advise influential public figures, capture media attention, and inspire support of the Societys tobacco control platforms.
Most Contentious Legislative Battle
"When Congress takes up the issue of a tobacco control policy, it will be the most contentious legislative battle the ACS has ever engaged in," Ms. Cook predicted. "The tobacco industry is willing to make concessions today that were not possible in the past and may not be possible in the future. If we do not actively participate in shaping public health policy, we could be forced to watch our federal lawmakers pass sweeping tobacco legislation that only benefits the tobacco industry."