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Faith groups cheer Congressional approval
of FDA regulation of tobacco industry

Washington, June 17, 2009 —Faith leaders have applauded Congress for its action approving landmark legislation authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products.

“Better late than never, the Congress has responded decisively to pleas from medical and scientific experts and hundreds of religious leaders across the country to give the American consumer regulatory protection from the relentless marketing of this deadly health threat,” said Wesley “Pat” Pattillo, the National Council of Churches' Senior Program Director for Justice, Advocacy and Communication.   

The vote followed years of advocacy by a diverse 25-member coalition of religious groups – Faith United Against Tobacco – that included the National Council of Churches, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), American Baptist Churches, Church of the Brethren, Episcopal Health Ministries, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Progressive National Baptist Convention, United Church of Christ, Seventh-day Adventists, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Islamic Society of North America.   

The bill, opposed by many groups affiliated with the tobacco industry, empowers the FDA for the first time to regulate the manufacture, promotion and sale of cigarettes, chewing tobacco and similar products.  

As backers of “The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,” the Faith United coalition was especially interested in the bill’s efforts to eliminate tobacco sales to minors.  Each day,  the group noted, more than 3,500 under-age children try their first cigarette.  The new legislation will not only prohibit tobacco sales to minors but also eliminate candy-, fruit- and spice-flavored cigarettes.   

Proponents of the bill described tobacco use as “the leading preventable cause of death in the United States,” killing 400,000 Americans every year.  Tobacco-related diseases generate health-care costs of about $96 billion per year, but effective legislation to regulate the industry took 45 years since the U.S. Surgeon General first linked lung cancer deaths with tobacco use.     

Among its provisions, the measure sent to President Obama for his signature would:

► Limit advertising and promotion of tobacco products, and prohibit the use of such terms as "light" and "low tar" in tobacco ads.

► Require tobacco companies to reveal the contents of their products, and authorize the FDA to require companies to remove or reduce nicotine and other harmful tobacco substances.

► Mandate more prominent health warnings in advertising and packaging of tobacco products.

In the Senate, 23 Republicans, 54 Democrats and two independents voted for the legislation.  In the House, 70 Republicans and 237 Democrats voted for final passage of the bill.  

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) ,

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