US Should Impose Higher Taxes On Tobacco Products As Part Of Cancer Prevention Efforts

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The President's Cancer Panelon Thursday recommended that the federal government place strictregulations on tobacco marketing and sales and increase taxes ontobacco products to help reduce cancer in the U.S., the AP/San Francisco Chroniclereports. The panel said that 2007 has had the steepest decline incancer deaths but that still more than 500,000 U.S. residents will diefrom cancer this year. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths could beavoided with lifestyle changes, the panel said.

The panelrecommended that lawmakers refuse campaign funds from the tobaccoindustry and that states work to reduce smoking by making publicschools and universities smoke-free and offering smoking cessationprograms at correctional facilities and through state-funded programs,including Medicaid.

In a report to President Bush, panelmembers wrote, "The panel recommends foremost that the influence of thetobacco industry -- particularly on America's children -- be weakenedthrough strict federal regulation of tobacco products and marketing."The Bush administration is opposed to raising taxes to fund spendingincreases.

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The panelsaid government policies often compromise cancer-fighting effortsbecause they hinder the availability of healthy food and physicaleducation (Freking, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16)."Ineffective policies, in conjunction with limited regulation of salesand marketing in the food and beverage industry, have spawned a culturethat struggles to make healthy choices -- a culture in dire need ofchange," the panel wrote (Reuters/New York Post,8/17). Schools should replace junk food with healthy food in vendingmachines and make physical education mandatory from kindergartenthrough 12th grade, the panel recommended (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16).

Accordingto the panel, the "issues discussed in this report have suffered tovarying degrees from politicization that continues to derail or limitprogress toward a healthier population that is less burdened by cancer.We cannot continue to fund tobacco- and obesity-related research,thinking it will solve the problems caused by cancer risk-promotingbehaviors and products, and also acquiesce to the demands of theindustries that encourage those behaviors and produce those products"(Wayne, CQ Today, 8/16).

The panel, establishedin 1971, is made up of three members and meets four times a year tomonitor the nation's campaigns to fight and eliminate cancer. Thecurrent panel members are LaSalle Leffall, a renowned surgeon and chairof the panel; pro bicyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong; andMargaret Kripke, chief academic officer of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16).

Lawmakers' Efforts

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions CommitteeChair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said, "The recommendations eloquentlyreaffirm what is widely recognized throughout the public healthcommunity: that giving the [FDA]the power to regulate tobacco products is the most important stepCongress can take to reduce smoking and the immense toll of illness anddeath it causes," adding, "It is absolutely essential to reducesmoking, especially among the nation's youth."

The HELP Committee this month approved legislation (S 625) that would give FDA authority to regulate tobacco products and advertising. In addition, the House and Senate each have passed bills (HR 3162, S 1893)that would increase cigarette taxes to fund the reauthorization andexpansion of SCHIP. Bush has threatened to veto both measures. Bush hasnot threatened to veto the tobacco regulation measure, but theadministration has said it has concerns about the bill, CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 8/16).
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