The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has been proud to work alongside the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop and support policies that prevent Americans from smoking. This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
This is the first law that provided the FDA with the authority to protect Americans from tobacco-related death and disease by regulating the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of all tobacco products, and educating the public about tobacco products and the dangers posed by their use. As a result, the FDA established the Center for Tobacco Products, which is responsible for carrying out the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
“During the past 10 years, the FDA has successfully developed a framework for tobacco product regulation that is reducing the impact of tobacco on public health,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “The AACR has been proud to help the FDA build its evidence base on new and emerging tobacco products and to work with FDA regulators to shape policy that protects the public’s health. We look forward to working together in decades to come.”
The Center for Tobacco Products initiatives include an emphasis on supporting research on novel tobacco products, which have not been studied as extensively as cigarettes and smokeless products; a focus on improving the regulatory science research that is critically important to effectively evaluate the premarket applications submitted for review; and the initiation of a public dialogue about lowering nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes to nonaddictive levels through achievable product standards. In addition, to educate at-risk populations on the dangers of tobacco product use, the FDA has invested in several science-based public education campaigns utilizing targeted media placement.
However, despite major progress in lowering the national smoking rate, tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. In fact, tobacco use accounts for 30 percent of all cancer deaths and incidence and is causally associated with 18 different human cancers including: lung, head and neck, stomach, pancreas, colon, and cervical cancers. Additionally, there has been a recent surge in tobacco product use among middle and high school students due to the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, prompting federal health officials to call the dramatic rise in youth vaping an “epidemic.”
“In just the past year, the number of American teenagers using tobacco products has increased by nearly 40 percent, threatening to reverse decades of progress,” said Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, chief of medical oncology at Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center and chair of the AACR’s Subcommittee on Tobacco Products and Cancer. “From 2017 to 2018, the number of high school students who use e-cigarettes rose by 78 percent, while also increasing by 48 percent among middle school students.”
“Since almost all tobacco use begins at a young age, the use of e-cigarettes by youth and young adults could have a lifelong impact on these individuals,” said AACR President Elaine R. Mardis, PhD, co-executive director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at Nationwide Children's Hospital. “This fact underscores why the AACR is extremely supportive of the various proposals in Congress to raise the purchase age of tobacco products to 21, to ban e-cigarette flavors that are appealing to kids, and to implement other measures that will keep these devices away from youth and young adults.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Smoking and Health, nine out of 10 tobacco users start before the age of 18. Raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products will help limit access, particularly in our nation’s high schools, and will mitigate the risk of nicotine addiction for youth.
As part of the AACR’s commitment to tobacco control policies, the organization hosted a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill, June 12, 2019, that focused on the potential public health crisis of e-cigarettes. The briefing updated policymakers and the public on the latest e-cigarette usage trends, science regarding the harm from these products, and regulatory efforts to curb youth use.
“The AACR is very concerned that youth and young adults may suffer the harmful effects of nicotine addiction and will move on to using combustible cigarettes,” said Foti. “On the 10th anniversary of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the AACR remains steadfast in its commitment to work with the FDA and lawmakers to advocate for policies that will advance our mission to prevent and cure cancer, as well as protect our youth from the dangers of nicotine addiction.”