FDA authority over tobacco products should be respected

June 2024


BCHC signed on to a letter led by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to urge the House Appropriations Committee to approve the full authorized level of tobacco user fees and oppose any efforts to weaken or alter FDA’s authority over tobacco products through the appropriations process.

Given the substantial harms attributable to tobacco use, Congress gave FDA the authority to oversee the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products. FDA is now using this authority to set product standards for tobacco products and implement premarket review requirements for e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Last year, FDA sent to the White House for final review a rule to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes because menthol cools and numbs the throat, which reduces the harshness of tobacco and makes it easier for youth to start smoking. Menthol in cigarettes makes them more addictive and harder to quit. FDA also sent a final rule to the White House to prohibit characterizing flavors in cigars because flavors increase the appeal of cigars and make them easier to smoke, especially among youth. FDA estimates that removing these products from the market will reduce youth tobacco use, advance health equity, and save hundreds of thousands of lives.

FDA is also expected to issue a proposed rule to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes to minimally or non-addictive levels, which would reduce the number of kids who become addicted to tobacco and help adult tobacco users to quit. FDA estimates such a policy would help five million people who currently smoke to quit in the first year, prevent more than 33 million youth and young adults from regularly smoking cigarettes and save more than 8 million lives this century.

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In addition, FDA is working to implement premarket review requirements for e-cigarettes. Since flavors increase the appeal and use of e-cigarettes by youth, removing all flavored e-cigarettes from the market would significantly reduce current high rates of youth e-cigarette use. FDA should continue to use the premarket review process to deny applications for flavored e-cigarettes, promptly complete its review of remaining applications, and take urgent action to remove all unauthorized flavored e-cigarettes from the market.

The House FY 2024 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill included two tobacco-related riders that would have prohibited FDA from finalizing and implementing its menthol cigarette and flavored cigar rules and from issuing a proposed rule to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes to minimally or non-addictive levels. The FY 2024 Consolidated Appropriations Act did not include these provisions.

The undersigned organizations urge the Appropriations Committee to not include these tobacco-related riders or any other provisions that would narrow, weaken, or modify FDA’s current authority to oversee tobacco products.

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