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Jeff M.
Democrat OR

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

    by Senator Jeff Merkley

    Posted on 2014-01-15

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    MERKLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to utilize a visual aid.

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

    Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I am very pleased to be here with my colleagues, from Ohio, the Senator in the Chair, and the Senator from Connecticut who just spoke, to draw attention to this incredibly important health issue here in America: addiction to tobacco and the diseases that come from that addiction to tobacco. We are here to commemorate a report put out 50 years ago by Dr. Terry, the Surgeon General. His report was called ``Smoking and Health.'' The contents of that report shocked the world because it was issued in defiance of a powerful and profitable industry that had repeatedly denied there was any link between smoking and disease. This report made national news by telling the American public things that we now take for granted: that smoking is bad for the heart and lungs; that smoking causes cancer; and that the lives of Americans are routinely cut short due to the use of tobacco products.

    This single report created a powerful ripple throughout society, a ripple that has continued in the decades since, growing into a wave that has transformed public health in America and saved an astonishing number of lives. Thomas Friedan, the current Director of the Center for Disease Control, says no other single report has had as large an effect on public health. The Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that 8 million have been saved by the antismoking measures that were launched, directly or indirectly, because of this report. That is a reminder of how far we have come in identifying a significant risk, understanding it, educating the public, and reducing the consequences.

    There would have been millions of lives lost had a brave Surgeon General not acted 50 years ago, in 1964. If that Surgeon General had said, as others before him, that is too sensitive, that is too provocative, it will be too much of an irritant to a powerful industry, how many lives would we have lost? If we do not act now to address tobacco addiction from new forms of the product, how many more American lives will be lost? We must take the courage from 50 years ago and channel it into the courage of today to address a significant health risk and to educate the American public and to change the consequences.

    The best way to save lives and improve the quality of life 20 or 30 years from now is to prevent young Americans from taking up tobacco products [[Page S360]] today. But big tobacco knows this is true. They know the best way to create lifelong reliable customers for their deadly products is to get kids hooked as young as possible, because in general people do not take up tobacco products after the age of 21. These children are what the industry calls ``replacement smokers.'' It is what I call children today who will suffer from tobacco addiction, disease, and death tomorrow.

    The tobacco industry is working night and day to come up with new strategies to create more children as replacement smokers, to keep their industry alive. They have come up with quite a variety of strategies. I thought I would share some of them with you today.

    This poster is of a product that is essentially presented as a mint. Here you have an Orb or a mint with a clever little dispenser, shaped like cell phones were shaped 6 years ago when they went in your pocket. The understanding is if kids have this in their pocket the teachers would think they have a cell phone and therefore they would not get busted at school.

    It seems kind of incredible that dissolvable tobacco has developed into mints to addict our children; that you eat them. I have one of these right here. These were marketed in Oregon as basically an experiment to see could you get young people to consume them and become addicts to tobacco.

    How about toothpicks made out of tobacco, called ``Sticks''? This is unbelievable. How about breath strips that you put under your tongue? Hw about flavors of all kinds? I note that our time is running out. I ask the Chair for unanimous consent to speak for 3 more minutes.

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

    Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, this is an example of the cigarillos my colleagues were talking about. This one is flavored apple. This one is flavored sweet cherry. How about this one. That is strawberry. These products are all about addicting our children.

    Here is the long and short of it. In 2009, this Chamber and the House signed a bill that gave the FDA the power to regulate these products. The President signed that bill and, since then, the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, has done nothing to utilize that power to regulate these addictive products that are going to destroy the health of our children in the years to come.

    Finally, from June 2009 until October of last year--so more than 4 years--they finally sent a draft deeming regulation to GAO, the General Accounting Office, and there it sits.

    To summarize, let us not accept inaction by the FDA. Let us not accept inaction by the GAO. Let's have the courage the Surgeon General had 50 years ago to take on dangerous products damaging the health of Americans so our children will live better lives.

    I yield.


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