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Tobacco Regulation Would Save Ohio $2 Billion in Health Care Costs by Preventing 114,200 Kids from Smoking - and saving lives ...

If Congress passes legislation to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products, the new law would save the state $2 billion in tobacco-related health care costs by keeping 114,200 kids from becoming new smokers, according to a new report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and released by Faith United Against Tobacco, a diverse coalition of clergy and lay members from throughout Ohio and the U.S.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown is a cosponsor of the FDA legislation and voted for it as a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. Senator George Voinovich is not a cosponsor of the bill and Ohio advocates are urging him to sign on. In Ohio tobacco use causes $4.37 billion in health care bills each year and kills 18,600 residents; 20.5 percent of Ohio high school students currently smoke.

Despite the death and disease caused by tobacco products, they are not regulated to protect consumers' health. This lack of regulation allows the tobacco companies to market their deadly products to children, deceive consumers about the harm their products cause and resist even the most minimal changes that could make their products less harmful.

The legislation pending in Congress (S. 625/H.R. 1108) would give the FDA authority to crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids, stop tobacco companies from misleading the public about the health risks of their products and require changes in tobacco products, such as the reduction or removal of harmful ingredients. It would also require larger, more effective health warnings and disclosure of the contents of tobacco products.

"Tobacco takes a devastating toll in health, lives and money, both nationwide and in Ohio," said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "By granting the FDA authority over tobacco, Congress can reduce the tremendous financial burden that tobacco use imposes on our health care system and also protect our children from tobacco addiction."

The new report is based on an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that, within the first five years of its implementation, the FDA bill would reduce youth smoking by 12.5 percent. In Ohio, such a reduction in youth smoking would:

- Prevent 114,200 kids alive today from becoming smokers;
- Save 36,600 kids alive today from premature, smoking-caused deaths;
- Reduce future health care costs by $2.0 billion, including $354.1 million less Medicaid program spending.

Ohio would realize additional health and financial benefits from reductions in adult smoking. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids report estimates that every one percentage point reduction in adult smoking in Ohio would result in $826.5 million health care savings, 87,000 fewer adult smokers, and 23,100 fewer deaths from smoking. With greater declines in adult smoking, these benefits would be even larger.

"The tobacco companies get away with their harmful practices because no government agency currently has any real authority over how tobacco products are manufactured or marketed," said Rev. Deanna Stickley-Miner, Director of Connectional Mission and Justice, West Ohio Conference, United Methodist Church and member of Faith United Against Tobacco. "Congress needs to authorize the FDA to put an end to this marketing and help us protect our children from this deadly addiction."

Nationwide, a 12.5 percent reduction in youth smoking would prevent 2.5 million kids from becoming smokers; save more than 797,000 kids alive today from premature, smoking-caused deaths; and produce $44.4 billion in health care savings, including $7.9 billion under the Medicaid program. Each one percentage point decline in adult smoking would result in $21.7 billion in health care savings, including $3.8 billion under Medicaid and nearly 2.3 million fewer adult smokers, resulting in 600,000 fewer deaths from smoking.

Bipartisan bills to grant the FDA authority over tobacco have been introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Demonstrating strong, bipartisan support, the legislation has 211 House sponsors and 55 Senate sponsors. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed the legislation on August 1, and it is currently pending before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This legislation has the support of every major national public health organization and more than 560 public health, faith and other groups across the country, as well as the strong support of the American people. According to a recent national poll, 70 percent of voters support Congress passing the legislation and 72 percent believe passage of the legislation would be an important accomplishment for Congress. The poll also shows FDA regulation of tobacco is supported across political lines, geographic regions and even by a majority of smokers.

Since it was founded in 2002, Faith United Against Tobacco has grown to include over 20 national faith denominations and organizations. The coalition includes the Society of the United Methodist Church, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention General Board of Church, the National Council of Churches in Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, the Seventh-day Adventists, the American Region of the World Sikh Council, and the Islamic Society of North America.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing about $100 billion in health care bills each year. According to the latest surveys, 23 percent of high school students and 20.8 percent of adults currently smoke.

Source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

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