News Updates: New Reports on the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Industries

The gun industry’s role in trafficking weapons to Mexico, the FDA set to regulate tobacco, and the new venues of alcohol advertising: the influence of corporations on population health is all over the news! Check out highlights from three new reports that focus on regulation.

ALCOHOL

Out-of-Home Alcohol Advertising: A 21st: Century Guide to Effective Regulation

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This report, by the Marin Institute (March 2009), the alcohol policy advocacy center, provides advocates and policymakers with suggestions for designing effective regulation of alcohol advertising at the state and local levels. With an eye on emerging trends in out-of-home advertising (e.g., digital billboards, advertising in public transit), this 12-page report focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of laws on the books in various jurisdictions across the U.S. It summarizes the factors advocates should consider when designing effective oversight of alcohol advertisements. With examples of restrictions likely and unlikely to withstand legal challenge and examples of model language from current laws on the books in cities in California and Pennsylvania, this report can help those interested in achieving effective regulation of alcohol advertising in their communities.


TOBACCO

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act

On April 2nd, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1256, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act by a vote of 298 to 112. This act amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to grant the FDA authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. The bill adds a new chapter to the FFDCA to regulate tobacco products. Tobacco products would not be regulated under the “safe and effective” standard currently used for other products under the agency’s purview, but under a new standard—”appropriate for the protection of the public health.” With the support of President Obama, Senator Edward Kennedy is expected to soon introduce a version of the house bill in the Senate. Two tobacco-state senators, Richard Burr, a Republican, and Kay Hagan, a Democrat, both from North Carolina, have submitted a weaker substitute bill that would create a new tobacco regulatory agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. As the New York Times noted in an April 25th editorial, “such a fledgling agency would almost certainly be much less effective than the F.D.A., especially since the senators don’t propose to grant it the broad powers and ample resources provided by the House-passed bill.”

Key features of the House of Representatives-passed bill include:

  1. Restrictions on marketing and sales to youth
  2. Specific authority granted to FDA to restrict tobacco marketing
  3. Detailed disclosure required of ingredients, nicotine and harmful smoke constituents
  4. FDA allowed to require changes to tobacco products to protect the public health
  5. Strictly regulated “reduced harm” products
  6. Requirement for bigger, better health warnings
  7. FDA activity funding through a user fee on manufacturers of cigarettes, cigarette tobacco and smokeless tobacco, allocated by market share

For a special report on the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, go to: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/fda/summary.shtml.


GUNS

Exporting Gun Violence: How Our Weak Gun Laws Arm Criminals in Mexico and America

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The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has issued a new report on the problem recently reported in the New York Times (“Loopholes to let gun smuggling to Mexico flourish,” April 14, 2009) entitled, “Exporting Gun Violence: How Our Weak Gun Laws Arm Criminals in Mexico and America.” Arguing that same laws that allow gun trafficking into Mexico have long allowed trafficking of guns to American criminals, the Brady campaign supports new laws that make background checks mandatory for all gun purchases and beefing up the authority of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to enforce laws.

In the report, the Brady Campaign urges U.S. leaders to look further than just enforcement of existing laws, and strengthen American gun laws to make it harder for Mexican criminals to arm themselves with U.S. firearms. The report stresses the urgent need for stronger gun laws that make it more difficult for military-style assault weapons and other guns to be sold by American gun dealers to gun traffickers who take guns over the border into Mexico, supplying weapons to fuel the violent drug cartels.