Truth Initiative Statement on Reagan-Udall Foundation Evaluation of FDA’s Tobacco Program
Statement of Robin Koval, CEO and President, Truth Initiative
We applaud the Food and Drug Administration and FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf’s leadership in taking the necessary step of commissioning external experts to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the agency’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). The report issued this week from the Reagan-Udall Foundation identifies operational improvements needed to ensure CTP can effectively do the full breadth of its work to develop policy, issue regulations, conduct research, decide whether new tobacco products or claims can be marketed, and educate Americans on tobacco products. It is vitally important that CTP has the ability to perform these duties to the highest standard because, as the report states, when it comes to tobacco, it “is regulating products that have no inherent benefit and huge societal costs.”
A key recommendation in the report concerns enforcement, which is especially critical as tobacco companies have continued to flood the market with new products and apparently little fear of federal reprisal. As youth vaping remains at epidemic levels and a serious public health threat – the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey from CDC showed that 2.5 million middle and high school students reported current e-cigarette use – the tobacco industry has been playing a dangerous game of “catch me if you can” with the FDA at the expense of young people’s physical and mental health. The report identifies the importance of working with other entities, such as the Department of Justice, on strategies to clear the market of illegal tobacco products with more speed and transparency. We could not agree more. The industry is gaming the system and the FDA, along with its governmental partners like DOJ, need to change the game plan as the application volume and flood of new products illegally on the market have become untenable.
As the FDA works to address these recommendations, we must not lose sight of the tobacco industry’s role in creating and perpetuating many of the challenges outlined in the report. The industry continues its well-documented playbook of aggressively thwarting the will of voters, states and localities, and the FDA at every turn with lawsuits, lobbying, and massive advertising campaigns designed to distract attention away from their business building and profit protection programs. To truly improve the way the FDA regulates tobacco products and protects the public health, the tobacco industry must stop impeding the agency’s efforts and wasting taxpayer dollars.
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