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Virginia Faith Leaders Call on Senators Webb & Warner to Support Legislation to Protect Kids from Tobacco
Date:3/5/2009

RICHMOND, Va., March 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A diverse coalition of clergy and lay members from faith organizations throughout Virginia held a press conference today to call on Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner to support 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.

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"Virginia faith leaders hope and pray that Senators Webb and Warner will support this legislation that will help us save lives in our state and across the nation," said Bishop Charlene Kammerer of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church. "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 Virginia'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.

The legislation is being marked-up this week in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a House floor vote is expected in the coming weeks. The legislation is supported by more than 900 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.

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 Ali Faruk, Policy Analyst for the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. "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 Virginia, tobacco use causes $2.08 billion in health care bills each year and kills 9,200 residents; 15.5 percent of Virginia high school students currently smoke.


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SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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