Tobacco and Public Health

If you want to smoke at work, OSHA won't stop you or cite your employer for permitting you to expose yourself to hazards. The agency famously terminated its indoor air quality rulemaking in 2001, when secondhand smoke arguably was of much greater concern to America's workers than it is today. No-smoking policies are commonplace now and smoking areas are increasingly restricted. Yet U.S. cities still take flak when they enact smoking bans to protect the employees of bars and restaurants.

Two developments on Aug. 25 placed tobacco’s hazards in a global context and brought stronger U.S. regulation of tobacco products one step closer: FDA announced it had created the 12-member Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee to provide recommendations on health issues as FDA implements the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which President Obama signed into law June 22. And The Tobacco Atlas, Third Edition, was published by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the World Lung Foundation (WLF) and released at the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit in Dublin, Ireland.

Smoking by adult men has steadily declined in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan.The Atlas says tobacco causes 6 million deaths per year and is the leading preventable cause of cancer. Its authors -- Hana Ross, Ph.D., an economist and strategic director of international tobacco control research at ACS; Judith Mackay, M.D., a Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Edinburgh and London, and a special advisor at WLF; Omar Shafey, Ph.D., MPH, adjunct professor of Global Health at Emory University; and Michael Eriksen, Sc.D., founding director of the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University -– estimate tobacco use is a $500 billion drain on the global economy and note its health costs are shifting to the developing world. While smoking by adult men has steadily declined in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan, China has 311 million adult male smokers, a number larger than the U.S. population, according to the Atlas. It says cigarettes are the world's most widely smuggled legal consumer product, with about 600 billion smuggled cigarettes making it to the market in 2006, and tobacco replaces potential food crops on almost 4 million hectares of agricultural land, equivalent to all of the world's orange groves or banana plantations.

When he signed the law, Obama said it "will not ban all tobacco products, and it will allow adults to make their own choices. But it will also ban tobacco advertising within a thousand feet of schools and playgrounds. It will curb the ability of tobacco companies to market products to our children by using appealing flavors. It will force these companies to more clearly and publicly acknowledge the harmful and deadly effects of the products they sell. And it will allow the scientists at the FDA to take other common-sense steps to reduce the harmful effects of smoking."

FDA is accepting nominations until Oct. 13 to the advisory committee. The members will include seven health care professionals practicing in oncology, pulmonology, cardiology, toxicology, pharmacology, addiction, or another relevant specialty; one officer or employee of a state or local government or the federal government; a representative of the general public; and three non-voting industry representatives: one from the tobacco manufacturing industry, one representative of tobacco growers, and one representative of the small business manufacturing industry. Send nominations to Erik P. Mettler, Office of Policy, Office of the Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, 10903 New Hampshire Ave., WO1, room 4324, Silver Spring, MD 20993, erik.mettler@fda.hhs.gov.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Aug 31, 2009


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