U.S. Can Dramatically Reduce Tobacco Use If Congress Grants FDA Authority Over Tobacco

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Reduce Tobacco Use

Ending the Tobacco Problem: United States can eliminate tobacco use as a serious public health problem, but the main obstacle to achieving this goal has been a lack of political will, not a lack of proven solutions.

The report makes it equally clear that while state efforts are critical, the states alone cannot solve the tobacco problem. Congress, long absent from the fight to reduce tobacco use, must provide essential leadership by enacting legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products.

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The report sets an ambitious, but attainable goal for the nation: "To reduce tobacco use so substantially that it is no longer a significant public health problem." However, the report concludes that current efforts, even if fully implemented, are insufficient to achieve this goal and would be hard- pressed to achieve even the far more modest goal of reducing the adult smoking rate from the current 20.9 percent to 15 percent. As the report states, such a modest reduction is not satisfactory because tobacco use would continue to cause a significant amount of premature death and disease.

To eliminate tobacco use as a significant public health problem, the report recommends a two-pronged approach that includes both stepped-up implementation of current strategies, primarily at the state level, and the enactment of federal legislation granting the FDA authority over tobacco products. As the report concludes, "Incremental reforms ... will not end the nation's tobacco problem. A more fundamental shift must occur. It is time for Congress and other policy makers to change the legal structure of tobacco policy, thereby laying the foundation for a strategic initiative to end the nation's tobacco problem, that is, reducing tobacco use to a level that is insignificant from a public health standpoint."

The IOM report demands a strong and immediate response by elected officials at all levels:

-- As the report recommends, state and local officials should redouble efforts to implement scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use.

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