National Panel Urges Tobacco Tax Increase, More Regulation
The President's Cancer Panel on Thursday recommended that the federal government place strict regulations on tobacco marketing and sales and increase taxes on tobacco products to help reduce cancer in the U.S., the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The panel said that 2007 has had the steepest decline in cancer deaths but that still more than 500,000 U.S. residents will die from cancer this year. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths could be avoided with lifestyle changes, the panel said.
The panel recommended that lawmakers refuse campaign funds from the tobacco industry and that states work to reduce smoking by making public schools and universities smoke-free and offering smoking cessation programs at correctional facilities and through state-funded programs, including Medicaid.
In a report to President Bush, panel members wrote, "The panel recommends foremost that the influence of the tobacco industry -- particularly on America's children -- be weakened through strict federal regulation of tobacco products and marketing." The Bush administration is opposed to raising taxes to fund spending increases.
The panel said government policies often compromise cancer-fighting efforts because they hinder the availability of healthy food and physical education (Freking, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16).
"Ineffective policies, in conjunction with limited regulation of sales and marketing in the food and beverage industry, have spawned a culture that struggles to make healthy choices -- a culture in dire need of change," the panel wrote (Reuters/New York Post, 8/17). Schools should replace junk food with healthy food in vending machines and make physical education mandatory from kindergarten through 12th grade, the panel recommended (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16).
According to the panel, 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" (Wayne, CQ Today, 8/16).
The panel, established in 1971, is made up of three members and meets four times a year to monitor the nation's campaigns to fight and eliminate cancer.
The current panel members are LaSalle Leffall, a renowned surgeon and chair of the panel; pro bicyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong; and Margaret Kripke, chief academic officer of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16).
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee> Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said, "The recommendations eloquently reaffirm what is widely recognized throughout the public health community: that giving the [FDA] 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," adding, "It is absolutely essential to reduce smoking, especially among the nation's youth."
The HELP Committee this month approved legislation (S 625) that would give FDA authority to regulate tobacco products and advertising.
In addition, the House and Senate each have passed bills (HR 3162, S 1893) that would increase cigarette taxes to fund the reauthorization and expansion of SCHIP. Bush has threatened to veto both measures. Bush has not threatened to veto the tobacco regulation measure, but the administration has said it has concerns about the bill, CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 8/16). The report is available online. (.pdf)