American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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ACP to chapters: help end smoking where you live

College updates Governors on anti-smoking efforts—and offers tips on how to get involved

From the November 1996 ACP Observer, copyright 1996 by the American College of Physicians.

By Elizabeth Prewitt

TORONTO—The College is encouraging ACP chapters to join local anti-smoking campaigns and discourage the use of tobacco, particularly by young people.

At the Board of Governors meeting, the College held a workshop to show ACP chapters how to become involved in anti-smoking coalitions, which are now active in 50 states. Legal challenge will likely hamper the implementation of FDA regulations limiting tobacco sales. Consequently, much of the anti-smoking activity is expected to take place at state and local levels.

Peter H. Fisher, manager of state issues for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, outlined the following three issues that are being addressed locally:

Sales. While all states prohibit cigarette sales to minors, enforcement has been ineffective. The Synar amendment requires states to monitor compliance with the law, but uncovering non-compliance has not necessarily improved enforcement. Strategies to improve enforcement include licensing stores to sell tobacco products and using licensing fees to pay for enforcement activities; increasing penalties for violations; outlawing or restricting vending-machines sales; and placing cigarettes behind store counters to force face-to-face sales.

Taxes. Because price is a significant factor in young people's decision to buy cigarettes, excise taxes can discourage smoking. Some states have successfully earmarked revenue raised by excise taxes for health-related purposes such as anti-smoking media campaigns.

Smoke-free environments. Local ordinances have been particularly effective in promoting smoke-free environments in workplaces, restaurants and other public spaces. But tobacco industry-promoted legislation often contains language to preempt local action.

Norman J. Wilder, FACP, the College's Governor of Alaska, and Stephan L. Kamholtz, FACP, the College's Governor of New York Downstate II, led group discussions of how to deal with obstacles such as a state governor's threat to veto an anti-smoking measure or a committee chairman's refusal to send a bill to the legislature. Dr. Wilder suggested using indigenous symbols to fight tobacco; in Alaska, for example, anti-tobacco forces used an image of sled dogs "trampling tobacco" to get their message out. Dr.Kamholtz described an effort from his state known as the "YUCK" squad, an acronym that stands for "Youth Understand Cigarettes Kill."

How to get involved in limiting use of tobacco

To get involved in the issue of limiting tobacco use, especially by children, consider contacting activists in your local area (see Tobacco Control Contacts by State), your ACP Governor, or Elizabeth Prewitt in the ACP Washington Office (E-mail, or phone 800-633-9400). A member of the staff of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Michael Kirshenbaum, is available to answer questions and provide ideas on getting involved. The College is working closely with the Campaign on this issue. Mr. Kirshenbaum's telephone number is (202) 296-5469.

If you want to take direct action now, consider modifying the attached Sample Letter to Members of Congress, urging Congress to hold the line on the new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule to reduce the use of tobacco by children and teenagers.

For more information, see:

Elizabeth Prewitt is Senior Associate for Government Relations in ACP's Washington, D.C., office.

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