AMA Hails Report Aiming to End Tobacco's Public Health Problems

The American Medical Association's president-elect, Dr. Ron Davis, praised an Institute of Medicine report, "Ending the Tobacco Problem," as a blueprint for America to reduce tobacco use significantly. Great progress has been made on this problem during the past 40 years, says AMA, but too many Americans -- 21 percent of the adult population -- still smoke. "Tobacco-related illnesses and death place a huge burden on our society," the doctors' organization says.

The report recommends a combination of higher excise taxes, nationwide bans on indoor smoking, and a stronger step: giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration broad regulatory control over the marketing, packaging, and distribution of tobacco products. Raising federal excise taxes and raising taxes in states with lower rates would curb cigarette smuggling and bring about parity in prices nationwide, the report says. It also calls for requiring all public and private health insurance plans to make coverage of smoking cessation programs a lifetime benefit and says $15 to $20 per capita of proceeds from the higher taxes should be dedicated to tobacco control efforts in each state.

Besides recommending better youth anti-smoking programs, the IOM report says tobacco ads and promotions should be limited to text-only, black and white messages, and tobacco companies should be prohibited from using terms such as "mild" and "light" in their marketing. Larger pictorial warnings should be added to cigarette packs and cartons, as Canada does, it says. "Smoking is a habit with potentially deadly consequences that is often taken up by adolescents before they can truly appreciate the risk of addiction," said Richard J. Bonnie, director of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy at the University of Virginia and chair of the committee that prepared the report. "We propose aggressive steps to end the tobacco problem -- that is, to reduce tobacco use so substantially that it is no longer a significant public health problem. This report offers a blueprint for putting the nation on a course for achieving that goal over the next two decades." Contact the National Academies Press (202-334-3313, 800-624-6242, or at www.nap.edu to order the report. A podcast of the briefing held to release it is available at http://national-academies.org/podcast.

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