Health groups ask Obama to issue delayed tobacco rule

Health groups ask Obama to issue delayed tobacco rule
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Dozens of health groups sent a letter to President Obama Wednesday, urging him to issue a long awaited final rule that allows the Food and Drug Administration to regulate all tobacco products for the first time, including cigars and electronic cigarettes.

Thirty groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, told Obama his leadership is needed to finish the rule, which was first proposed almost two years ago.

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“When you signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law in 2009, FDA finally was given the tools to significantly reduce the 480,000 deaths caused by tobacco products each year and the $170 billion in health care costs attributable to treating tobacco-caused disease,” they wrote. “Yet it is now seven years since the statute was enacted and your administration has yet to assert its regulatory authority over all tobacco products.” 

In the absence of a rulemaking, the groups said they’ve seen irresponsible marketing of cigars and electronic cigarettes geared toward youth and as a result, the use of e-cigarettes among young people tripled between 2013 and 2014, from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent among high-school students and from 1.1 percent to 3.9 percent among middle-school students. 

“Your administration’s delay in finalizing this regulation has been so great that Congress finally stepped in to address the dramatic increase in poisonings involving liquid nicotine containers for e-cigarettes by enacting legislation to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission the authority to require manufacturers to use childproof packaging for liquid nicotine rather than wait for FDA to respond to this public health concern,” they wrote. “The fact that Congress took this action speaks volumes about the level of frustration over FDA’s failure to act in a timely manner to protect children.” 

Last week, an FDA spokesman said he did not have an update on when the final rule will be released.

Industry leaders have speculated the agency is hung up on a provision in the rule that requires any nicotine delivery device that hit stores after Feb. 15, 2007, to apply retroactively for approval. E-cigarette manufacturers have long argued that the mandate would wipe out the industry.