Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tobacco Control: FDA Warning Labels Get Support on the Eve of Trade Talks

Five tobacco companies have filed suit once again to try to stop the federal Food and Drug Administration from implementing its rule to require larger, more prominent cigarette health warnings on all cigarette packaging and advertisements in the United States beginning in September, 2012. According to the FDA, "These warnings mark the first change in cigarette warnings in more than 25 years and are a significant advancement in communicating the dangers of smoking."

Tobacco control advocates discussed this new round of tobacco company lawsuits on Aug. 19 with KPFA "Livingroom" host Kris Welch and Health Issues Producer Ellen Shaffer of CPATH - , highlighting implications for African Americans, youth, and for upcoming negotiations for a U.S.-Pacific Rim trade agreement (Trans-Pacific Partnership) scheduled for Chicago, Sept. 6 -11. They discussed the lethal effects of tobacco and the need to move U.S. trade policy, which views tobacco as a legal substance to be promoted like any other, with guests:

Carol McGruder, Co-Chair African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (, pointed out that tobacco use and related illnesses have disproportionately affected the African American community. While the smoking rate among all Californians has plummeted from 23% to 14%, a rate second only to the state of Utah, African American smoking remains the highest in the state at 21.4% of males and 17% of females. "The consequences for our community are sobering: Black men who smoke are 50% more likely to get lung cancer than white male smokers; Black men have the highest lung cancer mortality rate at 81%, compared to a mortality rate of 54% among white men; with 16.3 lost years of life per death compared to 12.0 for white males. Though tobacco related deaths continue to kill more African Americans than car accidents, violence, and AIDS, combined; these deaths have yet to be given the priority on the public policy agenda that they deserve. The great disparities in smoking related morbidity and mortality between African Americans and the general population of California is an open sore in California's tobacco control crusade."

Danny McGoldrick, Vice President for Research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, pointed out that these lawsuits have failed in the past, but that the tobacco industry continues to deploy its vast resources to resist all attempts to restrain it harm. He noted that the warnings are important in motivating calls to public "quitlines," toll-free phone resources known to help adults quit smoking.

Chris Bostic, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which serves as the Secretariat of the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) ,, noted the contradictory position of the U.S. Trade Representative, which is advocating for free trade in tobacco products and restrictions on warning labels. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution supporting the public health position during trade negotiation meetings in the city in July, 2010.

Hear advocates for local and global public health discuss the FDA warning labels on radio KPFA: CPATH, CTFK, FCA, AATLC (go to minute 34:35)

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