Report Urges New Antismoking Efforts
Institute of Medicine Calls for Higher Taxes on Cigarettes and New Curbs on Marketing
May 24, 2007 -- The Institute of Medicine (IOM) on Thursday endorsed steep
cigarette tax increases and broad new FDA powers to steer the nation away from
A report from the group essentially urges the nation to create an unfriendly
environment for tobacco marketers through new regulation, smoking bans,
increased prices, and marketing curbs.
Without such drastic changes, the experts warned that little progress will
be made in cutting the estimated 500,000 Americans who die each year from
smoking and secondhand smoke.
"The committee believes maintaining our current course will not end the
tobacco problem," says Richard J. Bonnie, a University of Virginia
professor of law and psychiatry who led the committee issuing the report.
Adult smoking rates are half what they were four decades ago. But one-fifth
of American adults smoke, and nearly as many high school seniors report taking
up cigarettes each year.
Call for Higher Taxes
The report calls for a near tripling of federal tobacco taxes from its
current level of 39 cents per pack to a dollar or more. It also calls on states
with lower taxes to boost them in order to levy a combined tax of up to $2 per
"Whenever price goes up, consumption is affected," Bonnie says.
New Jersey has the highest state cigarette tax in the nation at $2.58 per
pack, while Missouri charges just 17 cents per pack in taxes, the nation's
lowest, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The national average
is $1.04, too low to strongly discourage both youth and adults from purchasing
cigarettes, the report concludes.
The report also calls on Congress to give the FDA or another regulatory
agency broad new authority to regulate the chemical content, sales, and
marketing of cigarettes.
The committee called for new laws and regulations to:
- Strengthen health warnings on cigarette packs.
- Limit tobacco advertising to a black-and-white text-only format.
- Prohibit tobacco companies from distributing information to children under
18 or taking surveys of children younger than 18.
- Gradually reduce cigarettes' nicotine content in an effort to make smoking
Congress for years has debated giving FDA the power to restrict smoking. One
attempt to expand FDA's authority was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2000.
Lawmakers could vote again this year on a bill granting the authority.
"Hopefully, the IOM's powerful call to action will be the irresistible
force that finally compels the Senate and House to act," Sen. Edward
Kennedy, D-Mass., the bill's current sponsor, says in a statement.
The report also calls for a complete ban on smoking in all nonresidential
buildings, including restaurants, shopping centers, and offices. Some cities,
including New York, have passed strict curbs on smoking, though laws vary
widely throughout the country.
States should also ban tobacco sales through the mail and over the Internet,