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North Carolina Faith Leaders Call on Sen. Burr to End Filibuster Threat of Legislation to Protect Kids From Tobacco

RALEIGH, N.C., Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A diverse coalition of clergy and lay members from faith organizations throughout North Carolina held a press conference today to call on Senator Richard Burr to end his opposition to legislation that would grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products. The legislation would protect kids from tobacco and save lives. Senator Burr has publicly threatened to filibuster the legislation if it was brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Congress is expected to consider the legislation in the coming months.

"We are shocked and deeply disappointed by Senator Burr's public statements that he plans to filibuster this measure," said Reverend Mark Creech, Executive Director, Christian Action League. "Senator Burr's threatened filibuster is one of the last remaining obstacles to saving so many lives from tobacco addiction through enactment of the FDA legislation. North Carolina faith leaders hope and pray that Senator Burr will drop his threat to block the bill. Both Senator Burr and Senator Kay Hagen should support the bill and help us save lives in our state and across the nation."

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.

The House of Representatives on July 30, 2008, approved the legislation by an overwhelming vote of 326 to 102. Six members of the North Carolina House delegation voted for the bill. It had 60 sponsors in the Senate, including 13 Republicans, but the Senate ran out of time to act due to the economic crisis. The legislation is also supported by more than 800 public health, faith and other organizations across the country, including every major national public health organization. FDA regulation of tobacco was also endorsed last year by major reports of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the President's Cancer Panel. A poll conducted in June found that 70 percent of American voters support Congress passing the legislation.

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

  • Restrict tobacco advertising and promotions, especially to children.
  • Ban candy-flavored cigarettes.
  • 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 Dr. Douglas Schocken, Duke Heart Center, Duke University Medical Center. "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 North Carolina, tobacco use causes $2.46 billion in health care bills each year and kills 11,900 residents; 19 percent of North Carolina high school students currently smoke.

SOURCE Faith United Against Tobacco
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