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On July 15, 2004, the U.S. Senate voted
78-15 to approve legislation that grants the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration strong and effective authority to regulate tobacco
products. This legislation is a longtime priority of public health
advocates and presents a truly historic opportunity to protect our
children from tobacco addiction and save lives. Currently, the FDA
regulates items such as boxes of macaroni and cheese, as well as
nicotine patches and gum, but does not have the authority to
regulate tobacco products. Tobacco use is the leading preventable
cause of death in our country, killing more than 400,000 people and
costing the nation $75 billion in health care costs each year.
[to top of second
column in this letter]
In the Senate bill, FDA tobacco
authority is paired with a $12 billion buyout of tobacco farmers,
which would be paid by tobacco companies. Unfortunately, the U.S.
House of Representatives has taken a more harmful approach to
tobacco policy that does not include FDA tobacco authority and would
have taxpayers foot the bill for a $9.6 billion tobacco farmers
buyout. A conference committee will work out the differences between
the House and Senate versions when Congress reconvenes in September.
The right choice for Illinois kids,
public health and taxpayers is for our U.S. senators and
representatives to support the Senate legislation and make sure it
is included in the final bill without being weakened. Let's end
special protection for the tobacco industry and protect our kids and
our health instead.
Harold P. Wimmer, CEO
American Lung Association of Illinois