Floor Statement of Senator Shaheen on Tobacco RegulationJune 04, 2009
Mr. President, I rise in support of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. We all know someone who is currently a smoker or someone who has been a smoker. I know we all worry about their health. That is with good reason.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. It kills more people each year than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined.
Let me repeat that because it is hard to believe. The fact is, tobacco use kills more people each year than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. Tobacco-related health problems affect millions more, resulting in skyrocketing health care costs every year.
The cycle of addiction is so hard to break, and the tobacco companies work hard to attract smokers with flashy marketing campaigns and by including chemicals that are proven to be addictive. Undoubtedly, this hurts our Nation's overall health.
There is no question that one of the most important steps the Senate can take to improve health and to reduce costs is to reduce the use of tobacco. That is why this legislation is so important, why I am proud to be one of the 53 cosponsors of this legislation. Again, over half the Senate is cosponsoring this legislation.
I thank Senator Kennedy for his leadership and work on this important issue over so many years. I thank Senator Dodd for managing this bill on the floor.
Throughout my career, I have advocated for smoking prevention. We all realize the cost in lives and in health care expenses that smoking creates, not only to the consumer but also to those who are exposed to the dangerous secondhand smoke.
In New Hampshire, almost 20 percent of adults smoke cigarettes, and tobacco-related health care expenses in New Hampshire amount to $969 million a year.
During my tenure as Governor, I was proud to sign legislation that banned the sale of tobacco products to minors, that prohibited the possession of tobacco products by children, and that required the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to disclose harmful ingredients in tobacco products.
The important legislation we are considering expands on what New Hampshire has done. It will give the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco products.
In New Hampshire this year alone, 6,300 children will try cigarettes for the first time. Just over a third of these children will become addicted lifelong smokers. The tobacco companies know these statistics and target much of their marketing to this vulnerable population. In fact, published research studies have found that children are three times more sensitive to tobacco advertising than adults and are more likely to be influenced to smoke by marketing than by peer pressure. This year in New Hampshire alone, the tobacco companies will spend $128 million on marketing, much of it geared to kids.
Tobacco companies also attract children to their products by using flavors, such as Twista Lime or Kauai Kolada, which says it contains ``Hawaiian hints of pineapple and coconut,'' or Winter Mocha Mint. It doesn't sound like we are talking about tar-filled cigarettes, does it? It sounds like we are talking about ice cream or candy. But, unfortunately, these fruit and mint flavors not only entice kids to try them but also makes the smoke less harsh, more flavorful so it is actually easier for kids to smoke.
Unfortunately, they do not make cigarettes less dangerous or less addictive. The tobacco companies do not stop at just the flavors to attract kids. They package the flavored products in colorful and fun patterns clearly aimed at attracting children to their products.
Norma Gecks of Derry, NH, reports that her youngest child is 19 and is addicted to smoking. He buys the mint- and fruit-flavored products and by now is smoking up to two packs a day. Already at age 19, he has developed a smoker's cough.
Keith Blessington of Concord is now an adult, but he is also a victim of childhood addiction. He smoked his first cigarette after a basketball game when he was only 17. Recently, he was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer and told me he has about a year to live. Despite this awful situation, despite the fact that he has cancer, he will tell you plainly: I am addicted. He cannot quit.
We need to enact this legislation to help people in New Hampshire and across the country, people such as Keith, people such as Norma's son. Tobacco products and marketing geared to kids need to end. We cannot afford to let another generation of young people put themselves at risk by becoming addicted to tobacco products and suffering the lifelong consequences of their addiction or, even worse, dying.
For decades, tobacco companies have targeted women and girls. But in the last 2 years, the industry has significantly stepped up its marketing efforts aimed at our daughters and granddaughters, and we have a picture of one of the ads R.J. Reynolds uses. It is their new version of Camel cigarettes targeted to girls and women, and it is Camel No. 9--sort of a takeoff on some other product descriptions we have heard. This cigarette has sleek, shiny black packaging, flowery ads, and, as you can see, the enticing slogan ``light and luscious.'' This advertisement has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Glamour, InStyle, Lucky, and Marie Claire magazines, and it has been effective. Today, about 17 percent of adult women and about 19 percent of high school girls are smokers. That is more than 20 million women and more than 1.5 million girls who are at increased risk for lung cancer, for heart attacks, strokes, emphysema, and other deadly diseases. These statistics are staggering, and it is important to remember they represent mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, colleagues, and friends.
Seventeen-year-old Cait Steward of Dover, NH, has seen these Camel No. 9 advertisements. She saw them in Glamour magazine. But fortunately, she sees through the marketing campaign. She says:
Tobacco companies advertise to try and get me and my friends to smoke. They try to make young girls think that smoking is sexy, glamorous, and cool. They know that if they get us to start smoking now we will be addicted for years to come.
It is not just cigarettes that we are attempting to regulate in this legislation. The tobacco companies have also developed new products that are both smokeless and spitless. They are just as addictive as those products you smoke, however, and they are just as deadly. Like cigarettes, they do not have any FDA regulation, and the consequences are dire.
I want to show a photo of a young man named Gruen Von Behrens. He is an oral cancer survivor. He has had more than 40 surgeries to save his life, including one radical surgery, and you can see how it left him in this picture. It removed half his neck muscles and lymph nodes and half of his tongue. Like too many teenagers, Von Behrens first tried spit tobacco at age 13 to fit in. By age 17, he was diagnosed with cancer. How can we let this happen? Tobacco companies are targeting our children, and it is our job to protect them.
This legislation is vital to our children and to our Nation's health. It will prevent the tobacco companies from marketing to children. It will require disclosure of the contents of tobacco products, authorize the FDA to require the reduction or removal of harmful ingredients, and force tobacco companies to scientifically prove any claims about reduced risk of products.
The FDA is the proper place to have this authority. It is responsible for protecting consumers from products that cause them harm. The FDA even regulates pet food. Yet it doesn't have the authority to provide oversight for tobacco--one of the most dangerous consumer products sold in the United States.
Under this legislation, the FDA will oversee tobacco products with the same objective and the same oversight with which it directs all of its activities--to promote and protect public health. It has the necessary scientific expertise, regulatory experience, and public health mission to do the job. We can't wait any longer to make the necessary changes that will impact the lives of so many people we know and love.
Again, I thank Senator Kennedy for his outstanding leadership on this issue and join many of my colleagues in supporting this important legislation that will save lives in New Hampshire and across the country.
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