Re­li­gious lead­ers go af­ter big to­bacco

Churches ask for FDA reg­u­la­tion of cig­a­rettes

The Covington News - - RELIGION - By Beth Rucker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Re­li­gious lead­ers have a “ moral im­per­a­tive” to urge Congress to al­low the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion to reg­u­late cig­a­rettes, said Richard Land, head of pub­lic pol­icy for the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion.

Land was among lead­ers from sev­eral re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tions who gath­ered at a Nashville church Tues­day to urge mem­bers of the Ten­nessee con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion to sup­port leg­is­la­tion.

“Ev­ery day we must bury moth­ers, fa­thers and sis­ters and brothers who die early from pre­ventable deaths caused by to­bacco ad­dic­tion that more of­ten than not be­gan at a rel­a­tively young age,” said Land, the pres­i­dent of the Bap­tist con­ven­tion’s Ethics and Re­li­gious Lib­er­ties Com­mis­sion. “ It is morally wrong to know the good that should be done and not to do it.”

The Fam­ily Smok­ing Pre­ven­tion and To­bacco Con­trol Act would give the FDA author­ity to re­strict to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing, reg­u­late warn­ing la­bels, re­move haz­ardous in­gre­di­ents from cig­a­rettes or re­duce nico­tine lev­els.

“ The bill would sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the num­ber of smok­ers who quit and re­duce harm to those who are un­able to quit,” said Dr. Chuck Wo­mack, with the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion Ad­vo­cacy Com­mit­tee.

Lead­ers of var­i­ous re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing Bap­tist, Methodist, Is­lamic and Jewish groups, have banded to­gether across the coun­try as part of the Faith United Against To­bacco cam­paign since 2002 to sup­port reg­u­la­tion of smok­ing.

“ Events like this are hap­pen­ing all around the coun­try where faith lead­ers are stand­ing up and say­ing we need reg­u­la­tion of to­bacco right now,” said Vin­cent DeMarco, na­tional co­or­di­na­tor of Faith United Against To­bacco.

In Ten­nessee, which is among the top states in to­bacco con­sump­tion, the coali­tion is tar­get­ing U. S. Rep. Marsha Black­burn, R-Tenn., and U.S. Rep. Bart Gor­don, D-Tenn., who are among the 33 mem­bers of the House Sub­com­mit­tee on Health who will vote on leg­is­la­tion.

Black­burn spokesman Matt Lam­bert said it was too early for Black­burn to know if she’d vote against the mea­sure, but in a state­ment pro­vided to The As­so­ci­ated Press, Black­burn said she feels the FDA is over­bur­dened in its ef­forts to reg­u­late the coun­try’s food and drug sup­plies.

“ The to­bacco in­dus­try is cur­rently reg­u­lated by both the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion and also the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, in ad­di­tion to var­i­ous state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments,” she said. “ While the in­ter­est of th­ese lead­ers is com­mend­able, my con­cern is the un­in­tended con­se­quences of this leg­is­la­tion would not serve the pub­lic well.”

Gor­don was un­avail­able for com­ment Tues­day.

The Se­nate Health, Ed­u­ca­tion, La­bor and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee on Aug. 1 ap­proved the act, though Sen. La­mar Alexan­der, R- Tenn., voted against it as a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee. Land tes­ti­fied be­fore the com­mit­tee in sup­port of the bill.

Land said he and his col­leagues were not ask­ing for a ban on to­bacco prod­ucts or for them to be treated dif­fer­ently than other reg­u­lated items, such as smok­ing ces­sa­tion prod­ucts.

“ We’re sim­ply ask­ing that to­bacco prod­ucts be sub­ject to the same com­mon sense con­sumer pro­tec­tions as other prod­ucts,” he said. “ Isn’t it a shame and a dis­grace that dog food is more reg­u­lated for safety than cig­a­rettes?”

To­bacco com­pa­nies have gen­er­ally been op­posed to FDA reg­u­la­tion, ex­cept for Phillip Mor­ris USA, which broke with com­peti­tors to en­dorse it.

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