The Senate health committee took up anti-smoking legislation that would authorize the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the marketing, advertising and product standards of cigarettes and other tobacco products. "I support this long-overdue legislation. If anything, I don't think this bill goes far enough," Sanders said. He suggested doubling the current level of resources for programs to help smokers quit. He also compared tobacco company executives to heroin dealers. "The only difference is they wear three-piece suits and hang out at country clubs."
In Vermont, 18 percent of high school students smoke cigarettes. An estimated 900 Vermont adults die each year because of smoking-related illnesses. About $233 million is spent in Vermont on health care directly attributable to smoking.
Meanwhile, tobacco manufacturers spend an estimated $28.2 million a year in Vermont and more than $13 billion nationwide on marketing and advertising. On top of that, the tobacco industry spent more than $20 million lobbying Congress last year. That our nation's most vulnerable people are subject to the marketing campaigns of multi-million dollar profit companies is a disgrace and an outrage "The question ought to be, how to we help break the addiction?" Sanders said.
Separate legislation under consideration by the Finance Committee would increase cigarette taxes to $1 per pack, raising an estimated $35.7 billion in new revenue. For an individual smoker, Sanders said, the new tax could cost about $500 a year.
More should be done to help those smokers break their addiction, he added. "Studies have shown that smoking has become ever more concentrated among populations with lower incomes and with less education—the same people who have limited access to health care services and are less likely to quit than people with higher incomes. We need to do something to address the blatant inequities in a system of tobacco addiction that leaves the most vulnerable people without resources or recovery options.
To watch video of the Senators' comment click here.
For facts on smoking in Vermont and the nation click here.