Ten years ago, health advocates won a major victory when then President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law. This was a monumental triumph over big tobacco for You’re the Cure, and millions of other advocates across the country, but more can and must be done to prevent teen tobacco use.
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The law included many provisions to inform the public on the dangers of tobacco use in the form of new warning labels, as well as restrictions on marketing tobacco products to minors and banned the sale of flavored cigarettes (excluding menthol). Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was granted authority to oversee and regulate tobacco products.
The FDA started off with a bang by creating the Center for Tobacco Products to oversee the implementation of the law and immediately began to take steps to reduce tobacco use, especially among teens. Unfortunately, since then many new and appealing products, like flavored e-cigarettes, have entered the market leading to a spike in tobacco use. More than 3.6 million middle and high students used e-cigarettes last year – a dramatic increase of 1.5 million youth since the year before. These numbers make it clear that the FDA and the Center for Tobacco Products need to do more to stem the tide of teen tobacco use.While the American Heart Association along with its grassroots arm, You’re the Cure, and our public health allies continue to encourage the FDA to take more decisive action to stem the tide of teen tobacco use, there is something you can do to help and it only takes 30 seconds!
Congress is actively considering legislation that would help curb teen tobacco use by raising the sales age to 21 in every state. With nearly 90% of smokers first using tobacco products by age 18 and evidence that shows that if you have not started by age 26, you’re unlikely to ever do so, moving the tobacco sales age to 21 offers the next generation a fighting chance against big tobacco. Please join us, and thousands of YTC advocates who have already taken action by contacting your Senators and urging them to act swiftly and pass legislation that would move the tobacco sales age to 21.
While the signing of the Tobacco Control Act into law was a monumental achievement that should be recognized after 10 years, we still have a lot of work to do. The fight against big tobacco is not over. The FDA and Congress can, should and need to do more to protect our children and prevent a future generation from the dangers of tobacco use.