(Las Vegas, NV) – Citizen Outreach, a non-profit organization whose mission is to put the public back into public policy by educating and advocating for limited-government principles and public policies, has stated its opposition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed flavored cigar ban “in the name of citizen empowerment.”
In comments addressed to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, Citizen Outreach President Chuck Muth maintains that “Putting the public back into public policy should be the name of the game in public health.” He cites The Centers for Disease Control’s emphasis on promoting health “through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals.”
Muth upbraids FDA for going “in precisely the opposite direction in its tobacco regulation” by withholding information from the public on the relative safety of various forms of tobacco, including cigars, for which “(r)esearchers and public health experts insist that there is little if any evidence that consumption is endangering the health of adult users to the degree that would justify a ban of a large percentage of the products they enjoy in moderation.”
In further questioning the FDA’s rationale of reducing youth usage and initiation, Muth points to already “minute” youth usage that is also “falling dramatically according to the most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey” and the Agency’s “thin gruel” of “evidence of any effect on youth initiation” based on “extrapolations from a few studies.”
“Instead of pursuing a destructive misinformation campaign on the health hazards of cigars and other non-cigarette forms of tobacco,” Citizen Outreach urges FDA and CDC to “empower citizens to make their own informed health choices.”
The full text of the Citizen Outreach comment is below:
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Hon. Robert Califf
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Re: Docket No. FDA-2021-N-1309
Proposed Tobacco Product Standard for Characterizing Flavors in Cigars
Dear Commissioner Califf:
The mission of Citizen Outreach is to put the public back into public policy. In other words, we’re really all about citizen empowerment. And in the name of citizen empowerment, we must take a stand against FDA’s proposed flavored tobacco ban and encourage our members and audiences to do so as well.
Putting the public back into public policy should be the name of the game in public health, which The Centers for Disease Control define on their own website as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals.” (emphasis added)
Recently, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has emphasized just such an approach in Tweeting to Americans, “Your health is in your hands” in regards to COVID decision-making.
Yet the FDA has gone in precisely the opposite direction in its tobacco regulation. It has withheld information from the public on the relative safety of various forms of tobacco, to the extent that even the American Cancer Society has recently stated:
“There is a need for behavioral interventions to encourage individuals to be informed consumers of available scientific findings and appreciate that while no tobacco product is safe, there are inherent differences between relative and absolute harms between tobacco products that can influence behavior. In turn, public health education campaigns must facilitate informed decision making by translating emerging scientific evidence accurately to appropriate audiences.”
FDA is, in particular, bending, stretching, and torturing the scientific evidence into unrecognizable shapes in forwarding the flavored cigar ban. Researchers and public health experts insist that there is little if any evidence that cigar consumption is endangering the health of adult users to the degree that would justify a ban of a large percentage of the products they enjoy in moderation.
The government’s own surveys belie the Agency’s assertion that youth usage of cigars is “substantial.” It is in fact minute, less than one percent according to a 2020 survey, and falling dramatically according to the most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey.
And FDA’s evidence of any effect on youth initiation is thin gruel indeed – depending on extrapolations from a few studies by its own researchers based on reduced sales of flavored cigars after state and local flavor bans – offering no evidence at all on actual youth initiation and use.
Yet despite this lack of scientific and population health evidence that a flavored cigar ban is necessary and “appropriate to the public health,” FDA is rushing headlong forward with a regulation that will not only restrict consumer choice but which it acknowledges will have massive costs for the overwhelmingly small businesses manufacturing cigars, not to mention wholesalers, retailers and farmers.
Instead of pursuing a destructive misinformation campaign on the health hazards of cigars and other non-cigarette forms of tobacco, FDA and CDC should be empowering citizens to make their own informed health choices. We encourage the FDA to withdraw this misguided rule and stand ready to help the Agency and other public-health authorities get accurate information on the small health risks of moderate cigar use into the hands of our followers.
Chuck Muth, President