WASHINGTONA presidential commission has urged the enactment
of a 17-cents-a-pack increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes to pay
for programs to aid tobacco farmers and support smoking cessation and
prevention programs. It also recommended that the FDA be given strong
regulatory powers over the tobacco industry.
The panelthe President’s Commission on Improving Economic
Opportunities in Communities Dependent on Tobacco Production While Protecting
Public Healthwas established last year by former President Clinton. It had
an equal number of tobacco growers and public health advocates among its 10
members, as well as several economic development experts.
Declaring that "tobacco farmers and their communities
confront a bleak future," the commission called on the federal government
to replace the current tobacco quota system with production permits available
only to active growers. Unlike quotas, the permits would not be marketable
assets, which would help ensure that the new system does not foster the same
economic dependence on tobacco as the current one. The panel also urged
compensation for quota owners and growers for the lost value of their quotas,
and the creation of other economic assistance programs.
In the area of public health, the panel recommended that:
Congress should grant FDA the authority to regulate the
manufacture, sale, marketing, distribution, and labeling of tobacco
products. The FDA’s powers should be comparable to its authority over
other products, but its authority should not extend to prohibiting the use
of tobacco products by adults.
States should better fund comprehensive tobacco prevention
and cessation programs. Those states that meet the minimum funding
recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
should receive additional federal assistance.
Medicare and Medicaid should include smoking cessation
programs in their basic coverage.
During the first 5 years of the federal tobacco tax increase,
all of the additional funds raised through it should go for programs to benefit
farmers and their communities, the commission said. During the second 5 years,
the money should support state prevention and cessation programs and other
tobacco-related public health efforts.