Apr 12, 2012

Getting More Accurate Tobacco Information to Consumers

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By: Margaret Hamburg, M.D. Crosspost from FDAVoice

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in our country. And this Administration is committed to implementing strategies that will stop our nation’s youth from starting to use tobacco and also help adults to quit. Today we’re taking two critical steps forward that will help reduce harm from tobacco and tobacco products.

Americans will soon have more information on the chemicals found in certain tobacco products, reflecting FDA’s commitment to inform and protect the public. For the first time ever, tobacco companies will be required to report the quantity of harmful and potentially harmful constituents – HPHCs – that are in their products to the FDA.

The detailed information that we receive will help FDA determine how best to make science-based decisions to reduce the terrible toll of tobacco-related disease and death. We also hope that by having to disclose this information, industry will voluntarily start to make their products substantially less addictive and harmful.

We are also forging new territory as we seek to ensure that tobacco companies provide accurate information and will not be able to mislead American consumers, especially by making it sound like certain products are less risky than they are. The landmark Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act signed by President Obama gives FDA the authority to ensure the claims for tobacco products marketed to reduce risk or exposure, such as “low tar” or “light,” are truthful and demonstrated by sound science.

So today we issued a draft guidance that provides direction for tobacco companies when they submit applications for modified risk tobacco products – MRTPs – tobacco products that are sold, distributed, or marketed to the public for use to reduce harm or the risk of tobacco-related disease.

We want to make sure consumers and the public have an accurate understanding of the health risks of tobacco products—so mistaken beliefs don’t cause them to start or continue using products that lead to preventable disease and death.

We are doing everything that we can to protect all Americans – especially our youth – from the dangers of tobacco, and we’re hopeful these two additional steps will accelerate our goal to make tobacco-related disease and death part of America’s past – not its future.

Margaret Hamburg, M.D., is Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration