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Faith Leaders Call on Iowa Members of Congress to Support Legislation to Protect Kids from Tobacco

DES MOINES, Iowa, March 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A diverse coalition of clergy and lay members from faith organizations throughout Iowa held a press conference today to call on U.S. Senators Tom Harkin and Charles E. Grassley and the entire Iowa congressional delegation to support legislation that would grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products. Senator Tom Harkin was a cosponsor of the bill in the last session of Congress, Senator Grassley was not.


"Iowa faith leaders hope and pray that all of the Iowa congressional delegation will support this legislation that will help us save lives in our state and across the nation," said Rev. Timothy Bonney of the First Baptist Church of Greater Des Moines. "The toll tobacco takes in our state - and in our nation - every year is devastating. But the REAL costs are what it does to our families. We need our members of Congress to stand up for Iowa's kids."

Despite all the death and disease they cause, tobacco products are virtually unregulated to protect consumers' health. This continuing lack of regulation allows the tobacco companies to market their deadly products to children, deceive consumers about the harm their products cause and resist even the most minimal steps to make their products less harmful.

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee overwhelmingly passed the bill, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-1st) voted for the bill as a member of the committee. A full House vote is expected in the coming weeks. The legislation is supported by nearly 1,000 public health, faith and other organizations across the country, including every major national public health organization. A poll conducted in May 2008 found that 70 percent of American voters support Congress passing the legislation.

At the event, the faith leaders highlighted a recent report about the tobacco industry's new aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at women and girls. In the last two years, the nation's two largest tobacco companies - Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds - have launched new marketing campaigns that depict cigarette smoking as feminine and fashionable, rather than the harmful and deadly addiction it really is:

  • In October 2008, Philip Morris USA announced a makeover of its Virginia Slims brand into "purse packs" - small, rectangular cigarette packs that contain "superslim" cigarettes. Available in mauve and teal and half the size of regular cigarette packs, the sleek "purse packs" resemble packages of cosmetics and fit easily in small purses. They come in "Superslims Lights" and "Superslims Ultra Lights" versions, continuing the tobacco industry's history of associating smoking with weight control and of appealing to women's health concerns with misleading claims such as "light" and "low-tar."
  • In January 2007, R.J. Reynolds launched a new version of its Camel cigarettes, called Camel No. 9, packaged in shiny black boxes with hot pink and teal borders. The name evoked famous Chanel perfumes, and magazine advertising featured flowery imagery and vintage fashion. The ads carried slogans including "Light and luscious" and "Now available in stiletto," the latter for a thin version of the cigarette pitched to "the most fashion forward woman." Ads ran in magazines popular with women and girls, including Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and InStyle. Promotional giveaways included flavored lip balm, cell phone jewelry, tiny purses and wristbands, all in hot pink.

The report shows, while overall cancer death rates are decreasing for both men and women, lung cancer death rates have yet to decline for women. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of women, having surpassed breast cancer in 1987, and smoking puts women and girls at greater risk of a wide range of deadly diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, emphysema and numerous cancers.

The bipartisan legislation pending before Congress would give the FDA authority to:

  • Restrict tobacco advertising and promotions, especially to children.
  • Require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products, changes to their products and research about the health effects of their products.
  • Require changes in tobacco products, such as the removal or reduction of harmful ingredients.
  • Prohibit health claims about so-called "reduced risk" products that are not scientifically proven or that would discourage current tobacco users from quitting or encourage new users to start.
  • Require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products.
  • Prohibit terms such as "low-tar," "light" and "mild" that have mislead consumers into believing that certain cigarettes are safer than others.

"It is mind-boggling that tobacco products are the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, yet they are virtually unregulated to protect public health," said Naomi Sea Young Wittstruck Leadership Development Minister, The Iowa Annual Conference of the UMC. "Until Congress grants the FDA authority over tobacco products, America's kids and consumers will continue to be lured into addiction by the tobacco industry."

In Iowa, tobacco use causes $1 billion in health care bills each year and kills 4,400 residents; 18.9 percent of Iowa high school students currently smoke.

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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