When the FDA is MIA, states have to make flavored tobacco products DOA
With such formidable hurdles to overcome at the federal level, it’s clearer than ever that states need to step up and pass their own laws ending the sale of flavored tobacco products that are designed to attract and hook kids.
The barrage of criticisms captured in a recent report has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco unit promising a top to bottom reset. An expert panel convened to investigate issues at the agency “described the FDA as ‘reactive and overwhelmed,’ with a demoralized workforce that struggles to oversee both traditional tobacco products and a freewheeling e-cigarette market.”
Though vested in 2009 with sweeping powers to reshape the industry, the FDA’s tobacco center has floundered against litigation from tobacco companies. Brian King, director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, remarked, ‘Unfortunately, the tobacco industry has fought the agency on many of the science-based actions we’ve taken, putting profits over public health.”
With such formidable hurdles to overcome at the federal level, it’s clearer than ever that states need to step up and pass their own laws ending the sale of flavored tobacco products that are designed to attract and hook kids. In Maine, business leaders recently came together to launch the new Tobacco-Free Maine Works coalition in support of such a law.
The coalition supports state Sen. Jill Duson’s upcoming bill that would end the sale of all flavored tobacco products. Sen. Duson attended the launch event and spoke about the coalition’s ambitions and her bill, saying, “This is a preventive measure so more young people do not get addicted [to tobacco.] It has an overwhelmingly negative impact on their health, their wellbeing, and our collective workforce. If we can put a stop to it by ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, then we should do so. It’s the right thing to do.”
Coalition members also spoke at the event, and dwelt not only on tobacco’s clear health consequences, but also how it drains money from Maine businesses in the form of lost productivity and additional health care costs.
“Beyond the clear threat to people’s health, tobacco addiction is an unnecessary strain on employers’ bottom lines and one more challenge to finding reliable staff,” said Tony Payne, senior vice president of external affairs at MEMIC. “Most people who use tobacco start at or before they turn 18 years old. That’s why reducing youth tobacco use now is key to promoting a healthy workforce for Maine’s future.”
So far, more than 40 Maine-based businesses have signed on as partners of Tobacco-Free Maine Works. That covers businesses from Portland to Bar Harbor and Caribou, and includes retail stores, food service, child care centers, professional services and insurance companies.
Public Health Campaigns, Associate, PIRG
Anne works on research, writing and coalition building for PIRG’s public health campaigns. She lives in Fairfield, Connecticut and can be found scoping out the best restaurants and coziest cafes with either a good book or witty conversationalist.
Director, Public Health Campaigns, PIRG
Matt directs PIRG's public health campaigns, including campaigns to address the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant infections by stopping the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture, and to reverse the alarming increase in teen nicotine addiction by banning tobacco products marketed to kids. Matt is an avid outdoorsman and loves to play the drums and harmonica.