When the Congress passed legislation this month raising tobacco taxes to fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), President Bush threatened a veto. Defending the health insurance and tobacco industries, Bush said, “If Congress continues to insist upon expanding healthcare through the SCHIP program — which, by the way, would entail a huge tax increase for the American people — I’ll veto the bill.”
But in a direct rebuke, the President’s Cancer Panel today recommended that Bush no longer “acquiesce to the demands of the industries that encourage” the “disease and death caused by tobacco use.” Specifically, the panel recommended that the federal government raise taxes on tobacco and more heavily regulate the tobacco industry to “weaken” its influence. CQ reports (sub. req’d):
In its report to President Bush, the panel said that “policymakers at all levels of government have an obligation to enact legislation to eliminate disease and death caused by tobacco use and environmental tobacco smoke exposure. The panel recommends foremost that the influence of the tobacco industry — particularly on America’s children — be weakened through strict federal regulation of tobacco product sales and marketing.” […]
The cancer panel pointedly noted that all “the issues discussed in this report have suffered to varying degrees from politicization that continues to derail or limit progress toward a healthier population that is less burdened by cancer. We cannot continue to fund tobacco- and obesity-related research, thinking it will solve the problems caused by cancer risk-promoting behaviors and products, and also acquiesce to the demands of the industries that encourage those behaviors and produce those products.”
According to the American Medical Association, “for each 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, youth smoking is reduced by 7 percent, and overall consumption by 4 percent.” Furthermore, the public overwhelmingly supports raising tobacco taxes, by a margin of 67 percent to 28 percent.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee recently approved a bill “that would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco.” Today, Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-MA) welcomed the panel’s recommendations.
The recommendations eloquently reaffirm what is widely recognized throughout the public health community; that giving the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products is the most important step Congress can take to reduce smoking and the immense toll of illness and death it causes. It is absolutely essential to reduce smoking, especially among the nation’s youth.
In addition to top medical scientists, the three-member panel includes Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor. Will Bush listen to his own appointed experts?