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U.S. Rep. Connolly, Inova Health System Physicians, Public Health Groups Call for Congressional Action to Protect Kids from Tobacco
Date:3/19/2009

FALLS CHURCH, Va., March 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly, several prominent doctors from Inova Health System and public health leaders from Virginia held a press conference today to call for quick passage of federal legislation that would grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products. The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the bill earlier this month and a full House vote is expected in the coming weeks. Rep. Connolly is an original cosponsor of the legislation.

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The pending legislation would give FDA the authority to crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids, stop tobacco companies from misleading the public about the health risks of their products and allow the FDA to make changes in these products. Despite being the most deadly product sold in America, tobacco products are exempt from basic health regulations that apply to other products we consume, such as food and drugs. The FDA regulates a box of macaroni and cheese and a tube of lipstick, but not a pack of cigarettes.

"Tobacco takes a devastating toll in health, lives and money, both nationwide and in Virginia," said Representative Gerry Connolly. "By granting the FDA authority over tobacco, Congress can reduce the tremendous financial burden that tobacco use imposes on our health care system and also protect our children from tobacco addiction."

The participants highlighted a recent report "Deadly in Pink: Big Tobacco Steps Up Its Targeting of Women and Girls," issued by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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 In Style. Promotional giveaways included flavored lip balm, cell phone jewelry, tiny purses and wristbands, all in hot pink.

These new marketing campaigns are the latest chapter in the tobacco industry's long history of targeting women and girls, which has had a devastating impact on women's health. The nation's latest cancer statistics, released in December 2008, showed that while lung cancer death rates are decreasing for men - and 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. Tobacco use also increases the risk for cardiovascular disease - the nation's No. 1 killer. About one-third of smoking-related deaths are related to heart disease and stroke.

"More than 20 million women and more than 1.5 million girls in the United States currently smoke," said Dr. David Ascher, Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children. "That puts them at risk of lung cancer, heart attacks, emphysema and other deadly diseases caused by smoking. We call on the rest of the Virginia delegation to join Congressmen Connolly, Boucher, Scott, and Moran to protect public health by supporting legislation that would allow the FDA to regulate tobacco products."

Despite being the nation's number one cause of preventable death, tobacco products currently are virtually exempt from regulation. This legislation would:

  • Restrict tobacco marketing that appeals to children.
  • Ban misleading health claims such as "light" and "low-tar."
  • Require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco packages and advertising.
  • Require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of their products.
  • Grant the FDA authority to require changes in new and existing tobacco products.

In addition to the latest marketing campaigns, the report released today describes the tobacco industry's long history of targeting women and girls. In the 1920s, ads for Lucky Strike cigarettes first linked smoking to weight control by urging women to "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." In the 1960s, Philip Morris introduced Virginia Slims, the first cigarette brand created specifically for women, and launched the "You've come a long way, baby" marketing campaign that linked smoking to women's liberation. In the 1970s, tobacco companies responded to women's growing concerns about the health risks of smoking by targeting with them ads implying that "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes were safer, despite knowing this was not the case.

The result is that today, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death among women, killing more than 170,000 women in the U.S. each year. In addition to the well-known risk of lung cancer, women who smoke double their risk of coronary heart disease, which is the overall leading cause of death among both women and men. More women than men now die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is caused primarily by smoking and has become the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

The report can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org/deadlyinpink.


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SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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