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Richard B.
Democrat CT

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  • Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013—Motion to Proceed—Continued

    by Senator Richard Blumenthal

    Posted on 2014-01-15

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    BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I am proud to be with public health advocates such as the Presiding Officer, my very distinguished and eloquent colleague Senator Brown, and Senator Durbin, who was on the floor earlier today on this very subject which remains one of urgency and profound importance to the public health of this Nation.

    Indeed, if there is a public health threat, enemy No. 1 in the United States of America, it continues to be tobacco use and nicotine addiction.

    We talk a lot in this body, throughout the Congress and throughout the Nation, about reducing the costs of health care. If we were to cut tobacco use and nicotine addiction, it would drastically reduce diseases such as cancer and heart disease and lung problems which reduce the longevity of life [[Page S359]] in this country but also create enormous costs in treating those medical diseases. Indeed, the cost of tobacco in health care for this country is about $193 billion a year, not only in direct medical costs but lost productivity.

    I am proud to have fought--and fought successfully--through many of my years as attorney general of the State of Connecticut, working in alliance with other attorneys general, with private health advocates such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Heart and Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and private advocates throughout the country who have achieved so much.

    When we doubt our achievements on this 50th anniversary of the annual Surgeon General's Report on Tobacco and Health, we should remember the days when 43 percent of adults smoked cigarettes and were addicted to nicotine. We should look at ``Mad Men,'' the very popular TV series, where tobacco use and smoking is ubiquitous. There is barely a scene without it. Those were days when doctors in their medical offices smoked cigarettes, the days when Big Tobacco fervently and vehemently denied that tobacco caused cancer or any of those other diseases.

    In alliance with attorneys general and eventually the Department of Justice, we fought successfully to bring out the truth and to help not only change the ads and pitches and promotions of Big Tobacco but also eventually to pass the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

    Yet for all the progress we have made--and, indeed, the rate of smoking has gone from 42 percent in 1965 to 18 percent in 2002 among adults--we are still lagging. We are way behind where we should be in preventing all those diseases that come from tobacco and protecting the public. The state of regulation and protection in this country is anemic compared to the danger and the threat.

    Between 2000 and 2012, cigarette use declined nearly 35 percent. But in that same period of time, cigar use rose by 124 percent, and especially among young people cigar use is increasing. There are new fronts and new frontiers in the fight against tobacco addiction, and the public health consequences--the disasters and catastrophic health consequences that come from lifetimes of nicotine addiction and tobacco use.

    Big Tobacco continues many of the tactics which caused so many people to become addicted and die. It is the only industry which makes the only product that kills its customer, and so it must replenish its customer base by luring new people, new users, and its target continues to be young people--young people who are lured into cigar use and then cigarettes by the use of flavors and all kinds of pitches and promotions which make these products seem more like candy and fruit than they do like the killers they are.

    We must accept that a major part of the responsibility belongs to the FDA and to the Federal Government because there are no deeming regulations, which are necessary to regulate cigars in this country. With 3,000 new people under the age of 18 trying cigar smoking each and every day, the fact that we do not have deeming regulations and strong regulations of tobacco products is simply unacceptable.

    Deeming regulations forthcoming from the FDA would allow it to regulate these other forms of tobacco, whether it is cigars or spit tobacco--also known as chewing tobacco--all forms of tobacco and tobacco-like products that threaten the health of young people. I have been consistent, along with many of my colleagues, in calling on the FDA to issue these regulations and hope they will do so quickly.

    Let me mention another growing new frontier and threat in this country involving e-cigarettes. These new products offer, in the rhetoric and pitches and promotion of the industry, a way to enable people to quit smoking. Yet they are often pitched to young people with flavors and other gimmicks. For those young people, they are a gateway to smoking and nicotine addiction.

    Companies that make e-cigarettes, not coincidentally, are being purchased by Big Tobacco, the makers of tobacco cigarettes. The influence of these companies can be seen in the advertising, marketing pushes, and campaigns of these products which feature celebrities, are candy flavored, and purport to offer a safer alternative to smoking. The ability of big tobacco to market these products, just as they were able to market cigarettes to children, gives them the ability to create a new generation of people who are addicted to nicotine and susceptible to going to other forms of tobacco products.

    I call on the FDA to act and to reach a determination that will enable it to regulate e-cigarettes and protect young people and all of us against the dangers and the costs of these new products. They are unknown in their ingredients. Many of them may contain the same or similar carcinogens. Somebody using e-tobacco products has simply no way of reliably knowing because they are unlabeled. The amounts of nicotine are also unknown and unlabeled. Studies of e-cigarettes have found that products claiming not to contain nicotine actually do contain it and the amounts of nicotine may vary widely across products.

    What is known beyond any doubt is nicotine is highly addictive. In fact, it is probably one of the most addictive legal or illegal drug there is today. We cannot sit idly and allow this new product to addict a new generation of American children. I hope this year's Surgeon General's report will remind us of the accomplishments that have been made but the dangers and challenges ahead that we must confront.

    I am proud to yield to one of the great public health advocates in this body, my colleague and friend Senator Merkley.

    Order of Procedure I ask unanimous consent that Senator Merkley and I be permitted to speak for up to 5 minutes, and that following our remarks the Senate stand in recess subject to the call of the Chair.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

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