NCI Testifies at Senate Hearing on Tobacco
Dr. Cathy Backinger, acting chief of NCI's Tobacco Control Research Branch, testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on November 13. The hearing examined the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) test for measuring tar and nicotine content in cigarettes and the public health implications of marketing cigarettes using terms such as "light" and "low tar."
As Dr. Backinger told the Committee, "light" and "low tar" cigarettes do not reduce smokers' exposure to hazardous compounds or their risk for disease compared with regular or "full flavor" cigarettes. She explained that cigarette manufacturers heavily promoted "low tar" cigarettes as a way to reassure smokers who were worried about the health risks of smoking. Dr. Backinger went on to testify that many smokers saw "low tar" cigarettes as an alternative to quitting and, as a result, many continued to smoke.
In response to a question from Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), FTC Commissioner William Kovacic acknowledged that the FTC test method is inaccurate, explaining that machine tests fail to account for the fact that many smokers compensate for reduced nicotine levels in "low tar" products by inhaling more smoke. Dr. Backinger testified that an NCI review of published studies and internal tobacco industry documents found that cigarette design features allow smokers to vary their smoke intake from a cigarette and that tobacco manufacturers were aware of this "compensation effect" long before it was understood by public health scientists. Dr. David Ashley, chief of CDC's Emergency Response and Air Toxicants Branch, and scientists from other organizations also provided testimony to the Committee.
NCI Tobacco Monograph 13 on low-tar cigarettes can be viewed at http://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/tcrb/monographs/13/index.html. Dr. Backinger's testimony can be viewed at http://legislative.cancer.gov/hearings/research.
President Bush vetoed the FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Act on November 13 and the House fell short of overriding the President's veto (277-141) on November 15. The bill sent to the President would have provided NIH with $30 billion and NCI with $4.925 billion for FY 2008.
As a result of the President's veto, NIH and NCI will continue to operate under a Continuing Resolution (CR), which maintains funding for government operations at the FY 2007 level, through December 14. House and Senate leadership are now proposing an omnibus funding bill for all of the outstanding appropriations bills. This new proposal is being promoted as a compromise with the President and would include about half of the additional funding provided in the original versions of the FY 2008 spending bills. Congress has until December 14 to put together an appropriations package that either the President is willing to sign or will garner the support of at least two-thirds of Congress. If that fails, another CR will be needed to keep the government running.
For more information about NCI legislative activities, go to http://legislative.cancer.gov/.